All of a sudden, the retail videogame release slate comes up snake eyes. Fortunately, one gem comes out of developmental limbo and onto the PlayStation ecosystem, and PC players can tread some new ground in the Far East. And of course, some re-releases and remakes help legitimize this week’s options.
Welcome to one the biggest cross-play titles yet. ‘Guacamelee!’ releases this week for the PS3 and PS Vita. The game is a genre-mashing title of relatively unique style and a zest for the joy of certain gameplay indulgences. In the style of ‘Metroid’ and the ‘Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’ title and derivatives, the two-dimensional world can be explored openly, but progression is earned. The other half of the genre component is the brawler.
Playing as agave farmer Juan, players gain resurrection powers over both the dead and the living. Traveling between the two worlds grants the player access to one of the better realizations of the light/dark world level design. The culturally infused art style is immediately fresh and classic, while those same influences make for pleasing characters set to pepper Jaun’s journey.
We’re frankly due for a “Metroidvania” style game, and those respective companies are spinning their wheels with junk like ‘Castlevania: Lords of Shadow’. ‘Guacamelee!’ manages some modern touches with local co-operative play, and a map that teases players by representing which collectibles have not been found per area. In addition to cross-play save compatibility, the game offers second screen support when using the PS Vita as a controller for the PS3.
Age of Wushu (PC)
‘Age of Wushu’ is a free-to-play MMO that is supposedly ripe with the mythical Wuxia characteristics made famous in countless films and stories reaching back thousands of years. While it presents an art style to go along with its mythic story structure, I have my reservations. The title is not a ‘World of Warcraft’ clone, and yet its free-to-play MMO nature inevitably breaks down into quests, player-versus-player, and cash money item shops.
The game presents itself as a massive sandbox filled with events that change each day. It’s been translated for Western audiences, which will likely cause moments of mistranslation and outright confusion about what to do next. On the other hand, that same confusion may make the game more appealing than the typical grind-it-out quest.
Age of Empires II HD (PC)
The ‘Age of Empires’ series once towered as an example of serious gaming on the PC. The multi-resource, multi-civilization, and multi-units aspect formed a bridge in gaming between simple real-time strategy titles like ‘Warcraft’ and ‘Command and Conquer’, and the grand-view titles like ‘Civilization’. It also existed as the representation Microsoft’s commitment to PC gaming. Oh, how times have changed.
‘Age of Empires II HD’ is exclusive to Steam and features Steam Workshop integration, as well as a complete visual and multiplayer system overhaul. Players can now expect proper widescreen support and can play online with a variety of skill type filters. This version also includes content from the original game’s expansion, ‘Age of Empires II: The Conquerors’.
Fatal Frame (PSN)
Having only ever played the cult classic ‘Fatal Frame’ series with Japanese installments (aka ‘Project Zero’,) I tend to think of them as freaky and confusing affairs. The series is a true cult classic, and copies are usually a bit pricy, which makes this PS2 re-release an excellent option for anyone pining for the best of the seemingly lost survival horror genre. Playing as the timid Miku Hinasaki, players must investigate an abandoned mansion in the desperate hope of finding the character’s totally-not-doomed brother. The ol’ timey camera is really the only hope of avoiding highly malevolent apparitions. As a PS2 Classic, this title contains no more and no less than the original PS2 disc. Hopefully, the rest of series will follow.