February is extra-tenacious this year, springing an additional day on us all due to the magic of a leap year. And, though this winter has (in the North-Eastern United States, at least) been a temperate one, the closing of February brings the powder with mountains of snow and boards with which to descend from them. There's also shooting with a touchy-feely twist, armies of demons and a Suda Goichi surprise, this week on Pick & Play:
(PS3, Xbox 360)
The extreme sports craze in video games has died off of late, with a pair of less-than-inspired motion entries in the Tony Hawk franchise and a couple of years having passed since a Skate release. Prior to that, snow-sports had all but disappeared since the last SSX game, SSX Blur, hit shelves in 2007.
This latest is the series' attempt to revitalize itself. It's not entirely clear how one "reboots" a sports franchise, lacking in a cohesive, linear storyline that can be tossed out and retconned, but the mechanics of the game can certainly be reworked from scratch, its gameplay redefined. In particular, this newest SSX introduces social, online components that focus on pitting you against friends on strangers in unique ways, such as hunting for tags planted by other players on the mountain. SSX will hit the slopes this Tuesday, February 28.
(PS3, Xbox 360)
SEGA has been relatively quiet about Binary Domain lately. Their latest action game, Binary Domain, is a squad-based shooter that institutes an element almost entirely new to NPC companions: trust.
Sure, you've had an NPC turn on you before when you accidentally hit it with a few too many stray bullets, or stole its favorite piece of useless garbage, but those were generally binary states behaviorally, or a sliding scale of how much the NPC liked you that would dictate their responses to specific questions. It was all very systematic. Binary Domain gives you A.I. partners who don't like it when you send them ahead to get gunned down while you wait at the back of the room, safely tucked behind cover. Their distaste for this behavior shows in their distrust of you, at which point they will actually disobey or ignore orders. The converse, of course, is also true. Trust us when we say that Binary Domain will be out this Tuesday, February 28.
The original Devil Survivor was the first Shin Megami Tensei title on the portable, and an excellent example of just how capable the little handheld was at handling tactical RPG experiences. Mixing both SRPG and more traditional JRPG mechanics into one battle system and incorporating a plethora of potential demonic helpers, as is the hallmark of the SMT series, Devil Survivor was a critical success.
Its sequel promises more demons, new story mechanics, and a demon compendium that enables the player to more easily acquire the stronger varieties of their existing, registered demons. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 will hit stores Tuesday, February 28.
Nippon Ichi Software, one of the more prolific (mostly) Sony-exclusive RPG developers, first created Hyperdimension Neptunia as an ode to the console wars. Its characters were all inspired by various hardware from the gaming industry's past and present alike, anthropomorphized into exuberant anime women and set loose in an RPG plot that, while certainly unique and wacky, did not make for a particularly compelling RPG.
With environments inspired by current generation consoles, and an overarching enemy named Arfoire (R4? As in the mod-chip? Maybe?), Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 is most likely worth it for its crazy premise alone, though it can't hurt that the developers saw fit to remove the random encounter mechanic, either. I will be available this Tuesday, February 28.
Not content to simply churn out Mario Party games one after another, Nintendo has introduced the PokéPark series for the less plumber-inclined among their fan base. Aimed at a younger set, the PokéPark games are distinct from Nintendo's more prominent minigame collections in that they have an overarching goal: a mystery that must be solved.
PokéPark 2: Wonders Beyond introduces side-scrolling platforming levels to the mix, which require players to switch between Pikachu and his friends to surmount obstacles and clear the stages under the time limit. Other than that, it's all about clearing attractions and completing minigames to expand one's roster of Pokémon. After all, what's a Pokémon game without a collection mechanic? PokéPark 2: Wonders Beyond launches today, February 27.
DLC Slated for release this week:
Hidden Gem of the Week:
This is a bit of a long shot, seeing as neither hide nor hair has been seen of this game since its announcement at Gamescom last year, but since it's ostensibly coming out in the middle of the week (slated for release by the end of February), it seemed like a title well worth pushing into the limelight.
First and foremost: Black Knight Sword is a Grasshopper Manufacture title, with that unique Suda 51 touch that makes his studio's work so distinctively surreal. A side-scrolling action game at its core, Black Knight Sword rips its aesthetic from a diorama, a cardboard theater with cut-out enemies and environments that move and react in stilted and jarring manners, yet spurt blood as they are struck by your blade. Absurd does not even begin to describe a game in which one finds hearts, which bolster health, in microwaves.
But, seeing as this is a game from the same mind that spun Killer 7 and No More Heroes, is a touch like that really so unexpected? Is it not, in fact, one of the hallmarks of a Suda 51 game that everything will be at least slightly off—that the world in which the characters exist is, to us, wholly bizarre despite the apparent solemnity with which they treat it—all par for the course?
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.*