Until I started putting together this feature earlier this year, I never fully realised just how barren the release schedule could be at this time of year. We're now in our third month of almost nothing new to play, which means your backlog should be starting to look fairly anemic by now.
Never fear, though. August is fast approaching, and its arrival heralds the incoming avalanche of awesome new titles releasing in 2014. In the meantime, however, I hope we can keep you entertained. This month, our regular line-up is joined by Artemis, so please make her feel welcome! I'd also like to give a shout-out to Mr. ERICVOLTAGE for providing our banners!
Without further ado, please enjoy the show.
Currently Playing: Rainbow Moon and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle
This month I got back into Rainbow Moon again after a huge break (I got it in March 2013). It's an old-school, turn-based JRPG that you can easily sink 100+ hours into (especially if you're going for the plat) and at around $15, it provides exceptional value for money.
The turn-based combat plays out on a grid, which allows you to have up to three characters on the battlefield at a time. Some battles can be really tough with 20+ enemies on the field, as well as some bosses who can be a pain in the ass (I got stuck for a while on what happened to be the last boss of the main story - he’s a bitch). There’s still a lot to do when you complete the main story as well, like extra side-quests and stuff. You can level up to level 999 and there’s also a superboss in the game that’s level 999 (I've not encountered that one yet, though). ‘Luckily’ you’ll only have to level up to level 500 if you want to go for the platinum (good luck with that!).
Rainbow Moon has everything I look for in a JRPG: a huge world to discover, dangerous dungeons to explore, tons of loot to find, strategic and engaging combat, and a deep character progression system. The downside to all this is the sheer amount of grinding required to get anywhere. If you've played JRPGs before, then you'll know that grinding is an inherent and unavoidable part of the experience, but I feel like Rainbow Moon goes a little overboard in that department.
Nonetheless, Rainbow Moon is an awesome JRPG. While I'm playing it on my PS3, I think it'd be even better on Vita, so whether you're looking for something to play on your handheld, or want a game you can get lost in from the safety of your living room, I can't recommend Rainbow Moon enough!
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is a fighting game based on a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Hirohiko Araki. My interest in it was piqued when Nagflar wrote about it in one of the earlier ‘Currently playing’ editions. Before that, I had never heard about it.
Anyway, my curiosity got the best of me and I bought it, and I'm glad I did, because I’m really enjoying the game so far! It has a beautiful art style with vibrant colors, over the top characters (half naked, purple haired guy with wings anyone?) and funny battle cries (Oreoreoreore). It’s a plus for me that the voices are in Japanese, as I mostly prefer the original language of any game/movie/series.
What’s also nice about this game is that it’s really easy for a fighting game. It’s good for beginners looking to get into the fighting genre, or for those of you that just suck at fighting games in general (like me). I only had a hard time telling which characters are male or female...
Rainbow Moon is available digitally for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is available digitally and at retail for PlayStation 3.
What I'm Looking Forward to: Doki-Doki Universe
I have a fondness for silly looking games - for games that are 'different' - and Doki-Doki Universe looks right up my alley. I thought about buying it when it came out, but due to my backlog I kind of forgot about it. I’m glad it’s free for PS Plus now.
In Doki-Doki Universe you are a robot called QT3. Your human family left you on an asteroid said to wait here on this asteroid, and that they would be right back to get you... That was 11,432 days ago. To make matters worse, an alien named Alien Jeff (who looks like a green hot-dog), finds you and gives you some bad news: it turns out your model is getting recalled and scrapped, because you apparently don't have enough "humanity", whatever that is. Alien Jeff has been assigned the task of discovering just how much "humanity" you are capable of, and reporting back to the company.
You travel together around the universe, visit planets and interact with the inhabitants. You are also able to take personality tests and get a full personality report from the therapist who lives on your home planet. You will also be able to decorate your home planet and visit your friend’s home planets and check out their personality reports.
I suppose what most appeals to me about Doki-Doki is its wacky art-style and rediculous premise. There aren't enough silly games nowadays, and I'm hoping this scratches an itch.
Doki-Doki Universe is available digitally for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita.
The Vita version is currently available as part of the Instant Game Collection for PlayStation Plus, for both EU/AUS and NA regions.
What I'm Currently Wasting All My Time on: Persona 3 FES
The Shin Megami Tensei franchise (and all of its spin-offs) has been one of those I never bothered playing, either because I had too much to look forward to, or I had too much on my plate already. However, someone convinced me to try Persona 3 FES not long ago, and seeing how it was on sale on the PlayStation Store at that moment, it seemed like a good idea to finally give in and give the series a try.
In the few months since I bought it I've barely played it - until recently. Having spent most of my gaming time finishing a lot of free games from Plus, I decided to take a break from trophy hunting and the current generation and pay some serious attention to this PS2 Classic. Needless to say, I'm hooked.
The story, and the symbolism; the weird, yet surprisingly great, fusion of a hardcore, turn-based RPG with a visual novel; the music, the cutscene animation, the artstyle - all of it makes Persona 3 FES an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable experience, the likes of which I'd never seen before. The "teenage life" portion of the game is just as enjoyable as the "get your ass handed to you" part, and even though I haven't finished the game yet, I can see myself playing it through again. I really can't praise it enough.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES is available on the PlayStation Network as a PlayStation 2 Classic. A Handheld version (Persona 3 Portable) is also available on the PSN for the PlayStation Portable (playable on Vita).
What I'm Looking Forward to: A Nap
Specifically, one that lasts until August. Or until my birthday. Whichever arrives first. Given that July will see no games released that I'm interested in, it's arguably the best possible thing to happen in terms of what I'm "looking forward".
August will be available four weeks from now, at time of print. For more info, see a calender.
Currently Playing: The Darkness II
I've been on a bit of a guide-writing tear this year. I find the whole process rather relaxing, really, and it's a welcome break from my other writing-related duties here and elsewhere. Most recently I chose to write up a guide for The Darkness II.
Now you might be wondering why I would choose to write a guide for such an old game. My honest answer would have to be that I picked it because it's cheap. Dirt cheap. I managed to find a brand-new copy of the Limited Edition at my local retailer for $9 - free poster and character DLC intact. I also picked it because I've heard it's an easy platinum, and while first-person shooters (on console) are normally not my cup of tea, an easy plat is exactly what I needed at the time. I guess what I'm really saying is that I didn't have high hopes for The Darkness II...
...Which is why "pleasantly surprised" is about as adequate a descriptor of my experience as "a bit of a rascal" is of describing Luis Suarez. The Darkness II is easily one of my favourite console shooters to date, succeeding in both story and gameplay when so many others have failed to reach greatness in either.
Based on the Top Cow comic series about a New York City crime boss who wields the primordial entity known as the 'Darkness', The Darkness II picks up shortly after the events of the first game to find Jackie Estacado struggling to contain and suppress the insatiable Darkness within him, after it cost him the love of his life: his child-hood sweetheart, Jenny. When a secret mystic order come to claim the Darkness, Jackie's forced to unleash the terrible, awesome evil once more in order to protect his family, and maybe find redemption along the way.
The Darkness II starts with a bang, and rarely lets up until the credits start rolling some 8 hours later. Unlike other games, you're given your powers and abilities almost immediately, and after a few minutes of tutorials, you're free to wreak havoc on your enemies in exceedingly and perpetually-satisfyingly violent ways. An upgrade system keeps combat interesting by adding more and more ways to shoot, explode, and eviscerate the legions of fools who dare challenge you, while the unobtrusive story is full of both great narrative elements, and interesting and well-realised characters.
Perhaps most importantly, the game controls incredibly well. The gunplay is tight and responsive, while access to your incredible Darkness powers is never more than a single button press away, meaning you always feel like an absolute badass. A great many games are all about providing empowerment, and in that field, The Darkness II has few equals. If you're a fan of shooters, but have gotten sick of the never-ending dirt-brown, dude-bro Call of Battlefield cycle, do yourself (and your wallet) a favour, and pick up The Darkness II.
The Darkness II is available both digitally and at retail.
What I'm Looking Forward to Other People Playing: Child of Light, Guacamelee!: Super Turbo Championship Edition
While there's nothing releasing on PlayStation platforms this month to grab my attention, that doesn't mean there isn't anything worth playing. Two of my favourite digital games are coming to all-new platforms this month, so if you haven't played them, now's your chance!
Child of Light is a top contender for my personal game of the year, but when it released, myself and a number of others were perplexed as to why it was not also out on PlayStation Vita, since the game seemed perfectly suited for the handheld. As if to answer our cries, Ubisoft this month are releasing Child of Light on Vita, including all DLC.
The game's brief level structure and care-free gameplay make it ideal for an on-the-go experience that you can stop and start at your convenience. If you haven't already, do yourself a favour and check out Child of Light this month.
Guacamelee! slipped under a number of people's radars when it release exclusively on PlayStation 3 and Vita last year, but once people got their hands on it, they quickly realised they were playing something truly special. I loved it so much that I fought tooth and nail to put it in our Top 25 PlayStation 3 Games list (well, not really - I kinda just said "I'm including it" and everyone just sorta nodded...).
One year on and developers DrinkBox Studios are re-releasing their Mexican Metroidvania platformer for all other major platforms, including PlayStation 4, complete with all DLC and all-new abilities and areas, as part of the Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition later this month. Equal parts funny and fun, Guacamelee! is definitely worth checking out if you enjoy old-school 2D platformers.
Child of Light comes new to Vita this month, and is available both digitally and at retail. The Complete Edition comes with the full game and all released DLC. It is also available on both PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.
Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition releases this month on PlayStation 4. If you own the original release on PlayStation 3, you can upgrade for a reduced price.
Currently Playing: Infamous Second Son and Blacklight: Retribution
I'm just starting to get round to playing the bigger games released this year, and when it comes to the PlayStation 4, no game has been as big as Infamous: Second Son. I will waste no time in stating that I am not a fan of either of the previous Infamous games. For all their great design ideas and interesting stories, the worlds they inhabited just didn't feel right for me, nor did the combat. I'm not saying they are inherently bad games for this, they just weren't what I hoped for.
Anyway, Second Son does improve in those areas I had problems with; combat is still a bit iffy in places, but I'm having far more fun using Delsin's powers (especially those beautiful neon powers). Seattle looks fantastic for the most part, though there are little areas of disconnect where real life meets game design - nothing serious, just a bit distracting every now and then. The story - usually one of Infamous' strong points - feels a bit weaker, however, but as I write this, I have yet to finish it, so it could get better. As it stands, it's probably the best of the series for me, and is a good showcase for the consoles graphical muscles, but Second Son hasn't quite been special enough as an overall game so far to sell a PS4 to the masses.
Also of note, I've been back to playing Blacklight: Retribution since it got out of Beta. Its simple online shootybang formula is a good thing to pick up every now and again. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it does its job well.
Infamous: Second Son is available both digitally and at retail on PlayStation 4.
Blacklight: Retribution is a Free-to-Play digital title for PlayStation 4.
What's gestating in my anticipation glands: The Last of Us Remastered
A no-brainer this month, I want to return to Naughty Dog's apocalyptic drama about parasitic fungus, zombies, and bonding, now coming to PlayStation 4 all buffed up and shiny looking. I am, of course, talking about The Last of Us Remastered.
Warning! Trailer contains story spoilers for The Last of Us.
I only managed to borrow a copy on the PlayStation 3 from a friend last year, and felt it was easily one of the top three games of 2013. As a result, I'm keen to revisit it properly this time, without the hurry, as well as getting to play the Left Behind DLC and try out the multiplayer.
My reasons for loving the game on PS3 were probably not the same as most people. I loved it because it reminded me of Manhunt , and my personal obscure survival horror favourite: SOS: The Final Escape. TLoU also created a convincing flash-forward to a potential apocalypse. The places it went all felt like part of a world long since abandoned, blistering with incidental detail to further that illusion. It felt important, and with the extra power of PlayStation 4 behind it, I feel that will remain the case going forward.
The Last of Us Remastered will be available both digitally and at retail for PlayStation 4 on July 29 in North America, July 30 for Australia and Europe, and August 1 for the UK and Japan.
Currently Playing: Sniper Elite III
If you managed to actually find and read our "Currently Playing June Edition", then you'll know that I was looking forward to Sniper Elite III. If, on the other-hand, like me, you couldn't find the June Edition, then it's here for you to enjoy.
So, was my optimism and excitement for Sniper Elite III worth it? I'd say "yes" in a heartbeat... unlike the opinions of the numerous Nazi's I've shot in the face, heart, lungs, liver, intestines and mainly... testicles. Yes, that's right, testicle shots are back and still as immature and strangely satisfying as they were in Sniper Elite V2. And if you pre-ordered Sniper Elite III then you also got the bonus mission DLC "Hunt The Grey Wolf", where if you shoot Hitler in the right place... Well, I'll let you find out about that by yourself.
The game this time around is a lot less linear, giving you multiple ways to take out your targets and complete the mission. However, I've found this has made the game a little bit harder, as now you've got to watch your back a bit more. Thankfully, though, you can set up traps, so any sneaky bastard trying to come up from behind you will be blown up by your cleverly placed Trip Mine. Or, if you're like me, you keep forgetting to do this, you'll often find yourself having to go all "Call of Duty" and getting out your machine gun and running for your life.
Authentic is what I've been playing on, which is the hardest difficulty. This is basically as realistic as the game gets, meaning that the wind, rain and even distance affect your sniper round. I've yet to master it, however, as my long range shots tend to be bloody miles off target, and this in turn attracts every enemy in the surrounding area to my location. And when you forget to place traps, this is not an ideal situation to be in.
Sniper Elite III on the PS4 looks lush; the forest areas are colourful and vibrant (with the tweeting birds doing their best to distract you), and the night missions are atmospheric and tense, with the moon giving off a nice glow and casting dark shadows for you to hide in.
Co-op is also available for the whole campaign, so my friend and I have been using headsets to pull off "SuperExtraSneakyStealthStabs" on multiple targets.
For a full review of the game, check back in a few weeks. If you've picked up the game yourself, then be sure to use the Sniper Elite III trophy guide here and the DLC guide here.
Sniper Elite III is available both digitally and at retail on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.
What I'm Looking Forward to: Backlog and Beers
Nothing tickles my fancy in July, so I'm finally getting a chance to try and finish some of my backlog... Once I've stopped castrating Nazi's on Sniper Elite III.
It's also my mums birthday in July, in case you were wondering, so I am looking forward to getting drunk at a "family outing", although the inevitable hangover isn't going to be pleasant... they really need a drug to fix that.
What else...? Oh, I'm looking forward to maybe seeing this on the Homepage!
This feature can indeed be seen on the homepage by clicking here. But don't click there, because you're already here, which is where you'd be eventually if you went there. Although I guess you're at the end, so you've probably seen everything already. It's up to you, really.
So what're you playing this month, and what are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below!