It's finally here! The Vita hits shelves this Wednesday, available for sale to the general public, along with another smattering of its launch titles. That doesn't mean that Sony's the only company seeing some love this week, though, with some big-name multi-platform releases and a downloadable spin-off to one of the longest-gestating horror games of all time. It's gods, Hell kings, and corporate subterfuge this week on Pick & Play.
(PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Once upon a time, a game by the name of Syndicate hit the PC and drew critical acclaim for its strategic real-time combat and malleable missions, allowing for varied, tactical approaches to missions of corporate subterfuge. The world was distinctly cyberpunk, proudly flaunting the influences of William Gibson's Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash.
The modern Syndicate reboot shifts the action to a first-person perspective, but still goes out of its way to provide players with a powerful suite of tools to use in tackling morally ambiguous tasks for one's corporate overlords. Syndicate, full of violence and future cyber-tech, hacks its way into stores Tuesday, February 21.
Real-time strategy has traditionally been the sole purview of the PC. Rarely does a console game manage to replicate the precise degree of control necessary to be even functional, much less fun to play. Army Corps of Hell, however, takes the tack of successful predecessors, such as Overlord and Pikmin, by centering the action around a single, directly controlled character.
This one, though, possesses a death metal style and a theme that mashes some Disgaea into the equation, centering play around the deposed King of Hell who is trying to reclaim his throne. Featuring, at a high level, hundreds of creatures on screen at once, Army Corps of Hell doesn't know the meaning of moderation. It stomps into stores alongside the Vita's launch, Wednesday, February 22.
A treatise on Buddhist theology? Not so much. The Asura were a race, not an individual. In this reimagining, though, Asura is one of eight demigods, framed for a murder, beloved wife slain and daughter kidnapped by his former comrades in arms. He is thrown into Naraka, the hell below, only to arise millennia later with a desire for vengeance and a seemingly unending supply of rage. He's gunning for his former brothers-in-arms, who now draw power from his daughter, Mithra.
With an art style that fuses anime design with traditional woodworking patterns, Asura's Wrath is a visually striking game, moving at incredibly hectic speed and echoing such classics as Devil May Cry and God of War, and even the underappreciated God Hand. With a cosmic sense of scale and absurd degrees of superhuman mayhem, Asura's Wrath will make your eyes spin when it hits stores on Tuesday, February 21.
Who's played a Katamari game? Now, who's played a good handheld one? For those whose hands just went down, we ask: did the last portable Katamari you played come out on a dual-analog handheld? No, I didn't think so. Again, it's the Vita's most basic innovation that has perhaps the most pronounced effect on its gameplay.
Katamari has always been a game designed for dual-analog controls, and trying to confine it to one on the PSP simply didn't work. That this newest entry has a plot that pokes fun at the series' own waning popularity is irrelevant. That players can pinch and squish their Katamari into odd shapes? Also irrelevant. This is a handheld, dual-analog stick Katamari game, and if you have any hankering at all for new Katamari, you already know that you need this. It's coming out on Wednesday, February 22.
Snake Eater was an oddball entry in a historically surreal series. While previous entries in the Metal Gear Solid series had been linear affairs, both in storyline and in level construction, the third opened the world up with outdoor environments in the jungles of Soviet Russia during the Cold War. It's a game that demands not only stealth and discretion, but also tremendous awareness of one's surroundings and the foes who occupy it.
The 3DS version of the game sports a new control scheme for the single-analog handheld, but does support the Circle Pad Pro in the interests of making many things, from camera control to aiming, more intuitive. Oh, and it's all 3D now. The depth effect, plus some unique quality-of-life features that have made their way into the game's mechanics (such as crouch-walking) are welcome and, in the case of the former, striking additions to a game that has already seen quite a few rereleases.
There truly isn't much to say about Ninja Gaiden Sigma. It was a PlayStation 3 rejiggering of an already sublime Xbox game, which was itself a refinement of a damn good action title. With a deep and varied combat system, rewarding those who develop intimate knowledge of its various idiosyncrasies, Ninja Gaiden is one of the few action titles I would feel comfortable saying is entirely skill-based. It is definitely possible to make it through the game without taking a single hit.
That said, the Vita update promises a more forgiving experience in its new Hero mode, as well as challenges that were not present in its previous iteration and touch-based power-ups for Ryu Hayabusa's ninpo abilities. It slices and dices store shelves this Wednesday, February 22.
Hidden Gem of the Week:
Alan Wake suffered from a tumultuous and arduous development cycle. It mixed together horror and action in much the same way as Resident Evil 4 and 5 had done, but the story itself seemed to draw more from Silent Hill and its more psychological ilk. Even the creatures one faced were less horrible beasties and more shadowy expressions of dark, negative thoughts.
American Nightmare, its downloadable spinoff, places the focus more firmly on the action side of the equation. This is, perhaps, exemplified by its "Fight 'Til Dawn" survival mode. As a means of sustaining those who rabidly devoured the first game, and interesting those who have yet to play it (and might have an interest in the recent PC launch of the franchise), American Nightmare is one of the more compelling ideas. The developers are keen to note, however, that this is not Alan Wake 2. It will be out on the XBLA this Wednesday, February 22.
Date: February 20, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*