E3 doesn’t officially begin until Tuesday, but the game industry has already begun showing off their latest and greatest a few days early. While it’s easy to get caught up in all they hype surrounding the new games that we’ll be playing this Fall and next year, it’d be a shame if you forgot about all the great games that are coming out in the next few weeks. With that thought in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some of this summer’s best games.
It used to be that publishers would withhold all of their big titles until the holiday rush, and while that’s still true to a certain extent, over the last few years they seem to have realized that people are willing to buy games year round, not just in October or November. Late spring/early summer releases like Red Dead Redemption and Portal 2 have proved that there’s plenty of people willing to stay inside during the summer months and play a quality game, and if you’re one of those nerds (don’t take offense, I’m one of those people too,) then this summer has plenty of choices to keep you entertained during your stay-cation.
Capcom’s latest action RPG was originally billed as “Monster Hunter for the West,” but my admittedly limited time with the game has given me the impression that Dragon’s Dogma has a different beast entirely: while it certainly involves a lot of monster hunting and loot whoring (like any proper action RPG should,) it’s large open world environment and asynchronous online features give it its own unique identity.
Dragon’s Dogma was developed by the same team at Capcom that was responsible for Devil May Cry 3, and that shows in the game’s fantastic combat: while the fighting mechanics still don’t have the depth of say, DMC3, Dragon Dogma’s fights are still infinitely more engaging than the brain-dead combat you usually get in open world RPGs (Skyrim, I’m looking at you.) The game’s battles against its menagerie of giant beasts is definitely the highlight, and the frankly epic moments of emergent gameplay that happen during some of the game’s fights more than make up for its admittedly substantial flaws (being stuck outside at night is a bitch.) If you’re looking for a quality action RPG and you can overlook a slight lack of polish, then Dragon’s Dogma will definitely keep you entertained for the whole summer.
Max Payne 3
Max Payne is back, and the formerly squinty-eyed detective successfully proves he has still has the chops to compete with this generation’s batch of shooters. I wasn’t a huge fan of the original Max Payne games — the bullet-time effects were a neat gimmick back when The Matrix still seemed new and revolutionary, but the gameplay itself got repetitive after awhile — but Max Payne 3 is different: the developers have taken a more serious tone with Max’s story, and while he still delivers his usual heavy handed narration, the shift in tone makes works in Max’s favor, and now I actually care about why Max needs to once again pistol dive his way through another army of faceless thugs.
MP3 even manages to deliver an addictive multiplayer experience that somehow manages to make bullet-time work in an online setting. With a multitude of different modes and unlockable upgrades and customization options, multiplayer FPS addicts who are looking for an alternative to the scores of military shooters out there should find enough content in Max Payne 3 to keep them busy until the next CoD or Halo.
I never would’ve thought to combine Pokemon with real-life Japanese history, but apparently Nintendo and Tecmo Koei thought it was a good idea, so they made Pokemon Conquest. The game combines the monster collecting and training of Nintendo’s billion dollar franchise with the Koei’s long running series of historically accurate strategy games, and according to reviews from Japan, the resulting strategy-RPG is apparently pretty good.
Set in feudal Japan’s Warring States period, Pokemon Conquest recasts historical samurai warlords as master Pokemon trainers, who fight for control of Japan using Pokemon rather than katanas or arrows. Battles play out differently than traditional Pokemon battles: you now control entire teams of Pokemon instead of just 1 or 2 at a time, and you move them around an isometric battlefield a-la Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics. It’s certainly strange to see real-life historical figures like Oda Nobunaga and Date Masamune command Pokemon instead of soldiers, but hey, if the game is as good as people say it is, I’m sure I’ll get over the initial weirdness. Here’s hoping they eventually make a sequel that uses famous figures from American history: I would pay so much money to see George Washington cross the Delaware River on the back of a Lapras.
Let’s face it: though the Vita is a great piece of hardware, quality games for the system so far have been few and far between. Gravity Rush looks like it might be the system’s first killer-app, as a lot of early adopters are already labeling the recently released gravity-altering platformer as the Vita’s best game.
Though Gravity Rush was developed by the same team that created the under-appreciated PS2 survival horror game Siren, it’s pretty much the exact opposite of that old gem: Gravity Rush features an absolutely beautiful, cel-shaded world filled with vibrant colors and a whimsical atmosphere. The game has substance to match it’s style as well, as the game’s unique gravity-twisting mechanics are used so cleverly that they give the game a level of depth that some fully-fledged console games never manage to achieve. If you’re looking for the game that validates your Vita purchase, Gravity Rush is it.
The Last Story
Long suffering Wii owners finally got some relief in the form of the excellent Xenoblade Chronicles earlier this year, and now thanks to the kind folks at XSeed, American gamers will finally get to experience the Wii’s other great J-RPG, The Last Story.
The Last Story is produced by Mistwalker, the company founded by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, and according to reviews from Japan and Europe (where the game was released some time ago,) the title is the first Mistwalker game to finally live up to their legendary pedigree. The game combines elements of traditional RPGs, cover-based shooters, and strategy games all in one, and somehow gets them to all work as one cohesive whole. In addition to that, the game features graphics that are, well, prettier than you’d expect from a Wii game, and a robust online multiplayer mode that will also make you rethink certain negative ideas you may or may not have about Nintendo’s little white box. If you’ve already finished Xenoblade and Tales of Graces f and are looking for the next great J-RPG, keep an eye out for The Last Story when it hits American store shelves in July.
Sure, everybody’s playing Diablo 3 right now, and I’m sure everybody will still be playing Diablo 3 a year from now too. But D3 isn’t the only quality loot-whoring RPG slated to hit PC this year: Runic Games’ Torchlight 2 is also being prepped to give RPG fans carpal tunnel this summer, and it looks like it’ll be every bit as good as Blizzard’s latest juggernaut.
The original Torchlight was one of perhaps the only Diablo-style action RPG that was arguably as good as Diablo, and Torchlight 2 fixes the original Torchlight’s biggest flaw: no multiplayer. Torchlight 2 features online and LAN co-op, remedying the original game’s only shortcoming, and in addition to that, the game adds in four new, completely customizable character classes and a new, open world structure. I’m kind of worried that this game will get completely overshadowed by its much hyped competition, but here’s hoping that a lot of people take give the underdog a chance with Torchlight 2. If it’s half as good as the first game was, you won’t regret it.
The original Darksiders won’t win any awards for originality, but what it lacked in innovation it more than made up for in sheer polish and fun. The game combined Zelda-like dungeon crawling with God of War style melee combat, and while it wasn’t quite as good as either of those games, it was still an entirely worthwhile and enjoyable experience.
Darksiders 2 seeks to make the original game’s winning cocktail of game mechanics even more addictive, as it adds in some RPG elements, like loot drops which allow you to customize new protagonist Death’s armor, as well as new town areas that are filled with optional sidequests for players to complete. While it still sounds as though Darksiders is still culling ideas from proven hits, I still won’t mind the developers taking “inspiration” from other titles if Darksiders 2 turns out to be as good as its prequel was. Darksiders 2 is currently scheduled to be released for the Xbox 360 and PS3 this August, and the Wii U later on this year.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
I have no goddamn clue what’s going on in Kingdom Hearts’ storyline. Sure, I’ve played most of the games, but the story kind of lost me after Kingdom Hearts 2; I’m getting old, and I simply don’t can’t put forward the time anymore to keep track of who’s who, who’s soul is imprisoned inside of who, who’s a Nobody of who, and who split into multiple versions of the same guy anymore. Somehow Square and Disney’s innocent little cross-over about a boy searching for his friends has turned into a narrative so convoluted that even Metal Gear fans can’t understand it, but hey, I guess someone out there still understands what’s going on, because you guys keep buying all these games.
And hey, I don’t mean to sound cynical, but I think we’re all tired of these spin-offs and side-stories and wish that Square would just make KH3 already. But putting my own jaded attitude aside, apparently Kingdom Hearts 3D is pretty good: again, the story simply serves to provide further set up the mythical “real” Kingdom Hearts sequel that Square may or may not be developing presently, but the game itself is supposedly a pretty solid action-RPG in its own right. At the very least, it features characters from The World Ends With You (one of my absolute favorite DS games,) so it can’t be bad, right?
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
High Moon Studios’ original Transformers: War for Cybertron was perhaps the first game ever to truly successfully translate everything that was great about the Transformers franchise into videogame form, and the sequel, Fall of Cybertron, looks like it’ll be even better.
Featuring the addition of several fan-favorite characters like Grimlock and Jazz, the latest Transformers game is once again a third-person shooter in the vein of Gears of War, except the titular ability to transform into a vehicle gives these combatants a level of mobility that Marcus Fenix and the rest of his lumbering crew could only dream of. Speaking as someone who grew up with Transformers (the original cartoon series, not the Michael Bay directed cinematic lobotomies,) I loved the original game and I’m looking forward to see what improvements High Moon Studios has cooked up for its sequel (hopefully you won’t have to run around and collect ammo every 3 minutes in this one.)
Persona 4: Arena
Given its popularity, I always thought Atlus would follow-up Persona 4 with a P3:FES like expansion pack, but I never thought they’d continue P4’s story like this: set a year after the events of Persona 4, Arena draws the game’s spectacle wearing cast back into the hidden world inside the TV, where they have to engage in a fighting tournament in order to put a stop to a new threat.
Yup, the latest Persona game is a 1 on 1 2D fighter, and surprisingly, it looks good.
While yes, it is strange to see a fighting game come out of Shin Megami Tensei, Persona 4: Arena is being developed by a team with a lot of fighting experience under their belt: Arc System Works, the same company that made Guilty Gear and BlazBlue. Their Persona based fighter seems to be just as deep and mind-numbingly fast as Guilty Gear was, and their trademark high-quality 2D animation does a brilliant job of bringing Persona’s cast to life. Fans of the series will be glad to see that several Persona 3 characters are in the game’s roster as well, including fan favorite ice queen Mitsuru. It may not be the P4 continuation I was expecting, but speaking as a fan of both J-RPG’s and fighting games, Persona 4: Arena might just be a winning combination.