It’s nigh on summertime, which means there is more time to spend with loved ones, catching up on things that need to be done around the house and planning vacations; then you remember that gargantuan Jenga tower of video games that you’ve placed on a backburner and throw all of that productive nonsense out of the window. It’s time for gaming. A common rule of thumb for video game release windows is to have a few large releases in the Spring, a couple of enormous time-sink games at the beginning of the Summer and then an absurd Class VI whitewater rapids-esque explosion of massive, AAA games to be released in Autumn, close to the holidays; this doesn’t even take into account the slew of quality indie and smaller games that are launching almost every week. Couple all of these games with the constant presence of Flash Sales and discounts on the PlayStation Network, Steam and Xbox Live and before you know it, you have a few hundred dollars worth of games piled up by your console and maybe even more filling up your digital library.
My current gaming platforms consist of a PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and a PC, which presents me with probably tens of thousands of hours, if not more, of games to dig into. I do my best to be responsible with my money, though, and only grab games when I’ve got an itch for that specific genre of game that I just can’t scratch or when I’ve dutifully chipped away the pile of games in my backlog enough that I can justify picking up new games. So over the last several months, I’ve amassed a hoard of games, and I think it’s time to do something about them.
The pulpy action-adventure PlayStation 4 exclusive that we’ve all been waiting for is here, and let me tell you from experience, it deserves every piece of critical acclaim that it has received. Building off of the success and adoration of the previous entries, Uncharted 4 accelerates the franchise to new heights of breathtaking visuals, incredible storytelling and gut-wrenching action sequences. I’ve actually already completed the campaign mode, and I’m just playing Uncharted 4 now to dive into the stellar multiplayer. The online component of this game plays somewhat like a robust, fast-paced Gears of War, and given that I haven’t played a Gears of War game since circa 2009, I’ve been craving a solid cover-based shooter (not The Division) for quite some time. Uncharted 4 is a tour-de-force on all fronts, and should not be passed by.
I don’t think that I’m alone in saying that not many of us were asking for a new Ratchet & Clank game, and when we heard that a new one was imminent, there was more than a little trepidation from the gaming community. Ratchet & Clank was a flagship franchise for Sony, arguably more so than both Jak and Daxter and Sly Cooper, and it deserved to be, as when the series was at an astounding six or seven entries, far and away past where most long-running series get mediocre or bad, Ratchet & Clank stayed true to quality in storytelling, world-building, action and gameplay. Eventually the series did sour though; the last few handheld and PS3 titles earned lackluster reviews and people tired of the franchise. Back to 2016, this Ratchet & Clank reboot launches and melts the collective gaming sphere’s mind with gorgeous graphics, a fresh take on the formula that made this franchise work and an even more sarcastic tone than the original series, resulting in countless hilarious moments and a superb platformer/shooter and just like that, we love Ratchet & Clank again and are eagerly looking forward to what they do next with the IP.
Persona 4 Golden
If you’ve ever looked at an internet list of the greatest JRPGs of all time, or dozens of lists like I have, there are a few mainstays within the top ten entries. Critically beloved darlings like Final Fantasy(s) IV, VI, VII (and sometimes X) and Chrono Trigger are always included within the top ten games, and there residing with the “greats” is none other than Persona 4. Originally released on the PlayStation 2, the first three of the Persona series were remade on the PlayStation Portable, with Persona 4 eventually re-launching on the PlayStation Vita and dubbed Persona 4 Golden. There are a few mainstays with the series, including Persona 4 Golden: they always take place in Japan, and the protagonists are Japanese high school students, and the titular Personas are supernatural beings that are used in combat by the protagonists, resulting in a dark, mature twist on the popular monster-collecting element of Pokemon. The Persona series is beloved by fans and critics alike for being weird, unique, stylish, great at building plots and multidimensional, interesting characters and for being overall solid JRPGs. Persona 4 Golden is no different, and typically taking anywhere from 60-200 hours to complete, prepare to take out a timeshare in this phenomenal, immense game.
Perhaps one of the stranger games that I’ve ever played, Freedom Wars takes the popular “David v. Goliath” mechanic from the Monster Hunter series where it pits your character against massive behemoths, and you have to climb the beasts and use precision swings and blows to sever the monsters’ limbs before putting them down. You can also gather the resources that the beasts drop in order to fashion new and more powerful guns, swords or armor for yourself. A key difference between Freedom Wars and Monster Hunter is that the former actually has a plot and story; taking place on a post-apocalyptic Earth that has been overrun by monsters, and the world government has taken over the small remaining population with a totalitarian-like rule, where citizens are given prison time for doing practically anything and are utilized by the government to fight these monsters in exchange for lesser prison sentences. Like I said, it’s a strange game.
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
Capybara Games never fails to make me smile with their wildly unconventional ways of crafting novel video game ideas that you’ve never seen anything quite like. I first experienced their work in Super Time Force Ultra, which is a hilarious, irreverent platformer/shooter that is steeped in 1980s pop culture references and unique game mechanics. I dug into their library and discovered Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (colloquially known as Sworcery) which, once again, is unlike anything that I’ve ever played. Sworcery is a very artsy, touch-based, music-driven adventure game with simple combat and puzzle mechanics implemented throughout. It’s based in a semi-fictional version of the Caucasus Mountains in Eurasia where you play as the mysterious Scythian, a female warrior who’s on a mission to vanquish the evil that resides within the Mingi Taw mountain. It’s not easy to explain Sworcery if you have never played it, but it’s inexpensive and a unique, innovative way of playing a game, and shouldn’t be missed.
I had more games that I wanted to beat originally, but after having taken an extended break from them, upon putting each of them back in and attempting to get back into them, I am retiring from trying to complete Assassin’s Creed: Unity, The Division and Evolve. They’re not bad games, but they certainly didn’t hold my attention, and they’re the rare case of me being willing to not complete them based solely on the fact that I wasn’t enjoying them. Gaming shouldn’t be a chore, but at the same time, if you know a game is good and it’s taking some work for it to click with you, respect the money that you spent on it in the first place and try to soldier on. I almost gave up on The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, and after much genuine work and effort and coming to terms with the fact that I’d never complete that game in its entirety, I finally completed the main story and most of the secondary storylines that interested me, and I can say with certainty that it’s one of my favorite games of all time. You shouldn’t force yourself to play something if you’re truly not enjoying it, but if you know there’s something good in the game, and you spent hard-earned cash on it, respect your money.
And with that, I’m gonna put off the rest of my backlog and play Overwatch.