For video game fans, the summer months usually yield few new releases. While summer 2012 will be better than most, the lack of new releases means that the season is perfect for catching up on games you may have missed. With that being said, I want to suggest three recent games that really surprised me.
My first choice is the completely over-the-top action game “Asura’s Wrath” for PS3 and Xbox. The game’s story revolves around the demigod Asura, one of the eight guardian generals who is tasked with defending humanity from the legions of impure Gohma. Soon after the game begins, his former comrades frame Asura for treason, kidnap his daughter and murder him and his wife in one foul swoop. 12,000 years later, Asura’s wrath is strong enough to revive his body so he can take his revenge and rescue his daughter.
“Asura’s Wrath” is presented similarly to anime episodes, complete with opening credits and a preview of what is to come. The action often alternates between simple third-person hack and slash gameplay and “Panzer Dragoon” on-rail shooter sequences, before jumping back into cutscenes loaded with quick time events.
“Asura’s Wrath” delivers jaw-dropping spectacle after spectacle. Within 20 minutes of booting the game up, you will have punched a planet in the face, and it only gets crazier from there. Despite the insanity, the game is backed by a gripping, heartfelt story, which is as equally compelling as the action.
My second, radically different pick is “Fortune Street” for the Wii. “Fortune Street” is a board game similar to “Monopoly” but includes a stock market. If that sounds terrifying, don’t worry. The game handles and displays all of the relevant math and statistics, so it is easy to just focus on the strategy of managing your investments.
In “Fortune Street,” all of the characters and boards are from the “Mario” and “Dragon Quest” franchises. It is important to note that “Fortune Street” is no “Mario Party,” as the randomness is comparable to “Monopoly” and there are no mini-games. Unlike “Monopoly,” the goal in “Fortune Street” isn’t necessarily to force others into bankruptcy, but rather to reach a target amount of gold and return to the bank. With a careful mix of buying and selling the right stocks, knowing when to invest in yourself and gathering four suit cards for salary bonuses, you’ll be able to climb to the top.
Since “Fortune Street” is a board game, you do need to bring your own enthusiasm to really enjoy your time. The game is ridiculously intense with the right group of people, but when you can’t bring everyone together, the enemy AI is brought to life with great dialogue for each character. With the right attitude, “Fortune Street” is an absurdly fun and intense experience that greatly rewards your time and effort.
My final choice is “The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky” for PSP (and downloadable on both PSP and Vita). “Trails in the Sky” is an RPG detailing Estelle and Joshua Bright’s journey to follow in their father’s footsteps and become members of the Bracer Guild.
The game starts off slowly, but the approach proves rewarding, as the tale’s scope expands over the course of the adventure. There are mountains of text to read throughout the game, but every line is effectively used in constructing the world from the major characters down to the very last obscure NPC.
The game’s battle system proves incredibly fun throughout, as it features turn-based combat similar to “Final Fantasy X” mixed with elements of “Chrono Trigger,” such as adapting to characters’ shifting positions on the battlefield. The game’s structure is well-suited to a handheld gaming system, with compelling side quests complementing the main narrative.
“Trails in the Sky” was my game of the year for 2011 and is one of the best RPGs I have ever played. The game achieves a more or less perfect balance of story, gameplay and pacing throughout its entire 50 hours of gameplay.
“Asura’s Wrath,” “Fortune Street” and “Trails in the Sky” are three games that I highly recommend. There are many games deserving of our attention, but it is often the games that we take a chance with that prove the most satisfying. I hope you enjoy these recommendations.