There is a certain theme running through this week's releases. Or, more accurately, there are two parallel themes that combine in our first title before diverging off into its two partners at retail. First, combining action and punk with history and mythology, is El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. Following up on the action and punk end, we have No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise, while, pulling for ancient and potentially mythological, Age of Empires Online pokes its head up and says "Hello."
Born of a marriage of East and West, El Shaddai adapts the story of the apocryphal book of Enoch—originally part of the Old Testament—through the lens of surrealistic Japanese artistry. Levels that exist in worlds not of this earth, created by the fallen angels Enoch is combatting, are fusions of abstract art and action-gameplay conventions, fusing two-dimensional platforming with fully realized action combat, akin to that of Devil May Cry or God of War.
The art, done by the mind behind Okami's stylized aesthetic, fuses this surreal imprint with anachronistic design sensibilities. Enoch's armor includes designer jeans, Lucifer—presented here before his fall—has the aesthetic of a punk rocker, and one of the fallen angels certainly feels that disco still lives (thousands of years before disco has been created, no less). El Shaddai is a unique, almost absurd game, and it will be available this Tuesday, August 16.
From the mind that brought you Killer 7 and, more recently, Shadows of the Damned, No More Heroes was one of the first truly mature titles on the Wii. That this title's story can be deemed mature is in contrast to the puerile lead character, who is anything but. Travis Touchdown, juvenile and selfish, is an otaku gamer who bought a beam saber off of the internet. Now he's an assassin.
Heroes' Paradise is actually a high-definition port of the Wii game, with support for both the standard PlayStation 3 controller and the PlayStation Move. In it, players try to take Travis from number 11 on the list of top assassins to number one. Along the way, blood will be spilt in level after level of slicing and dicing carnage. Popular enough to spawn a sequel back in 2010, No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise is a cartoonishly violent game, with references to everything from popular anime to the classic 8-bit games of yesteryear and, as has become a Suda Goichi trademark, pro wrestling. It will be available on Tuesday, August 16.
Developed by Gas Powered Games, the team behind the first two Dungeon Siege titles and grand-scale RTS Supreme Commander, Age of Empires Online takes the Age of Empires franchise somewhere it has never gone before: massively multiplayer.
The Age of Empire games have done online multiplayer before, but, while the real-time battles of games past feature prominently, Age of Empires Online also tasks players with managing a persistent city that continues to function when they are no longer online. By adding in multiplayer quests and player trading, made attractive by the persistent city aspect of the game, Age of Empires Online constructs a social experience around the rise of one's civilization. The game is launching with Greek and Egyptian civilizations.
Age of Empires Online will be playable for free, with premium content available for a price. There will be a boxed, retail release, but it will also be available as a digital download. The first civilizations Gas Powered Games plans to add are the Celts and the Persians. Age of Empires Online will be available Tuesday, August 16.
DLC Slated for release this week:
Hidden Gem of the Week: Toy Soldiers: Cold War
Tower defense games are a dime a dozen these days. Originally available as free mods for RTS games, tower defense has evolved into a full-fledged genre, with games popping up on everything from the DS with titles like Ninjatown, to the PlayStation 3 with the brilliant PixelJunk Monsters. Most famously, Plants vs. Zombies has taken the concept into the mainstream. With so many options, and many of them free, it's hard to justify spending money on yet another tower defense game.
That's what makes Toy Soldiers: Cold War so exceptional. A sequel to the original Toy Soldiers, also available on the Xbox Live Arcade, Toy Soldiers: Cold War hits three key notes: (1) solid tower defense gameplay. It's intuitive and beatable, but doesn't simply hand your victory over to you. (2) A unique twist on the genre. In Toy Soldiers' case, it's the ability to man the emplacements you put down. Finally, (3) is nostalgia. Green and tan army men blow each other up in every little boy's plastic soldier fantasy come to life on screen. The Army Men games subsisted entirely on this appeal alone, and Toy Soldiers combines it with a game that's actually worth playing. Toy Soldiers: Cold War will be out this Wednesday, August 17 on the XBLA.
By Shelby Reiches
CCC Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*