SPRING GAMES OF 2017

Spring has arrived! With a new season also comes new games. This Spring is loaded with many games, so here’s a highlight of some of those coming out between now through June 20th, from big-budget titles, smaller games that offer something different, to remasters for a hint of nostalgia and for newer generations to enjoy. Not every game was mentioned, so apologies ahead of time if a favorite was not included. Now, let’s start cleaning house!

MASS EFFECT: ANDROMEDA – March 21 | Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

The fourth major installment in the Mass Effect franchise has new protagonists, new planets, new story, and makes some interesting changes to the gameplay for a faster pace. Andromeda has you play as new recruits, Scott or Sara Ryder, waking up on the Andromeda after 600 years.

Noticeable tweaks to the gameplay that differs from previous entries is the ability to assign any skill for your character rather than selecting between classes and faster, real-time gameplay that doesn’t slow down or pause. There’s more emphasis on mobile, open-field skirmishes than cover-based firefights, and the freedom to level up your character to a crippling amount of overspecialization if that’s your thing.

So far, early reviews are mostly positive, with a 75% rating on Metacritic (as of this writing) and several patches already released in order to fix those pesky bugs and “stability improvements.” I’m not sure what the last one is, but it reads a lot better than food packages labeled with, “Now made with REAL cheese.”

DREAMFALL CHAPTERS: THE LONGEST JOURNEY – March 24 | PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Originally released episodically in “books” between October 21, 2014 through June 17, 2016, Dreamfall Chapters (The Final Cut) is the updated edition that includes all 5 books, along with a recap of the two previous entries, Dreamfall and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, to help ease newcomers to the franchise and story.

Dreamfall Chapters is for those of you that like a good story-driven game every once and a while. Similar to Telltale games, Dreamfall Chapters centers the gameplay on choices and interactions with other characters. There’s no stealth or combat sections in Dreamfall Chapters, though.

Instead, there are several locales to explore that offer rewards and a more in-depth look into the fascinating, parallel worlds. That’s right, you read that correctly. The story takes place between a cyberpunk future and a fantasy old-world that keeps things fresh and the player light on their feet.

Fun Fact: Dreamfall Chapters was crowd-funded via Kickstarter, raising over $1.5 million, with additional funds provided by the Norwegian Film Institute.

KINGDOM HEARTS HD 1.5 & 2.5 REMIX – March 28 | PlayStation 4

“When you walk away, you don’t hear me say: Please. Oh, baby- Don’t go!” And it won’t. In fact, the Kingdom Hearts HD Remixes of 1.5 and 2.5 are coming back once more. This would be the second time the HD Remixes have been released, with the first developed for the PlayStation 3 back in 2014 (October for Japan and December for North America, Australia, and Europe).

While the PS4 versions have already been released in Japan (March 9), North America and Europe releases will be made available on the 28th and 31st, respectively. Kingdom Hearts III still seems a ways off, with most retailers listing the release date at the end of December – which usually means, “not this year” – but that’s okay.

This remastered re-release seems to serve many purposes. This is a definite plus for newcomers, collectors, and fans; but if you have played or already own the PS3 version of these titles, then I can assuredly say that you can pass this up without missing anything.

For those that are interested in catching up with the series or jumping straight in, the HD Remixes include 3 games, with 1 of those being adapted into a cinematic retelling. 1.5 features the final mix of the original Kingdom Hearts, Re:Chain of Memories, and 358/2 Days. The final mix of Kingdom Hearts differs from the original with modified menus and controls that are more similar to that of Kingdom Hearts II and Re:Chain of Memories.

In 2.5, the final mixes of Kingdom Hearts II, Birth by Sleep, and Re:coded are included. Where the final mix of Kingdom Hearts II varies from its original counterpart is the audio mixing, where Birth by Sleep‘s final mix had more details and sounds added with tweaked gameplay and camera controls since it was ported from the PlayStation Portable to PlayStation 3.

Both 358/2 Days and Re:coded are the games in each of their respective HD Remixes that were converted from game to cinematic sequences since they were originally designed for the Nintendo DS. A fair compromise to get the most out of these bundled deals.

Fun Fact: Approximately 80% of Kingdom Heart II‘s original audio was remixed with orchestral elements added to the songs. Co-Director, Tai Yasue stated, “Yoko Shimomura’s music is an undeniable trait of the Kingom Hearts series. I feel like without the atmosphere she creates, it isn’t Kingdom Hearts.”

PARAPPA THE RAPPER REMASTERED – March 28 | PlayStation 4

Another remaster to be released at the end of March, Parappa the Rapper Remastered. Fans of the rhyme bustin’ canine will be able to revisit this musical, button-prompt, rhythm game that was originally released on the first PlayStation back in 1996 (or 1997 for the rest of the world). He’s making his way downtown and home-bound to another PlayStation system.

This will be an HD port of the PlayStation Portable version that released in 2006-2007 during his 10th year anniversary. A demo of Parappa the Rapper Remastered was released last year on December 3rd, to commemorate his 20th year anniversary. It only seems appropriate for the Rapper to reappear once again, this time, on the latest PlayStation console.

Fun Fact: In 1998, Parappa the Rapper won awards for “Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Design” and “Outstanding Achievement in Sound and Music” during the first annual Interactive Achievement Awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Science – known today as the D.I.C.E. Awards (Design. Innovate. Communicate. Entertain.) since 2013.

PERSONA 5 – April 4 | PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4

Ready for an RPG that has both dungeons and offerings of a social simulator with cool J-Pop/Jazz fusion thrown into the mix? Aren’t we all! The chronologically 6th installment of the Persona series, Persona 5 will be finally released for the rest of the world.

In Persona 5, you play a silent high-school student who lives out a single year of his adolescent life, attending school, working part-time jobs, making friends, and stealing the corruption from the hearts of adults in an attempt to reform the city! Oh, yeah- double-take all you want, because that last line truly exists.

The protagonist forms a group called, The Phantom Thieves (of Hearts) that literally steal corruption from the hearts of others, turning the dastardly into someone with a rational sense of compassion. If stealing is a sin, then THIS is the kind of sin I’d want to commit.

Premise and social sim aside, the RPG elements of the gameplay is where Persona 5 is at. More akin to traditional turn-based RPGs where enemies have specific weaknesses to certain types of attacks or elements. Where the Persona series ups the ante is that the player (or enemy) will gain an advantage with additional actions if weaknesses are exploited.

This system rewards the player to analyze, experiment, and vary the “personas” (aka creatures) and party members with each new stage and its encounters. It’s a lot better than just receiving extra damage, and offers an emphasis and reward to those that play smart and effectively.

Fun Fact: Development for Persona 5 started around the same time as Persona 4, resulting in nearly 10 years of development, 11 years if you count localization for other countries.

DRAWN TO DEATH – April 4 | PlayStation 4

From the mind of David Jaffe (God of War, Twisted Metal) comes Drawn to Death, a third-person, 4-player arena shooter, set inside the sketch book of a teenager. While most games tend to approach more realistic graphics, Drawn to Death’s visual style makes it stand out far above the rest.

Drawn to Death is literally gunning for a fast and frantic pace, with high mobility in mind, and an arsenal that’s both juvenile and deadly, such as a lizard that can also be used as a flamethrower. Sounds kind of crazy, but if there is one thing I’ve learned about David Jaffe: His crazy is the right kind of crazy.

Jaffe also made it a point in an interview with Game Informer in which he stated, “Skill should be the only determining factor. If you’ve been playing this for a year, and I just come in and I’m awesome at these types of games, the only reason you should win is you know the map better and are more comfortable muscle memory-wise. It should never be because you have better weapons. It’s not meant to be a game that is play it a lot, unlock stuff, dominate.” Now that’s something I can get behind.

Fun Fact: A trailer for Drawn to Death was released long ago on December 11, 2014, where a character read negative user comments about the game’s announcement. The video has since been made unavailable.

BULLETSTORM: FULL CLIP EDITION – April 7 | Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

A remastering of 2011’s Bulletstorm with increased texture resolution, support for 4k resolution on Windows PC and the PlayStation 4 Pro, and additional content that was created by People Can Fly, like the Overkill Campaign mode which players start with instant access to all of the weapons in the game.

More importantly, there’s a Duke Nukem’s Bulletstorm Tour DLC when preordering the game that allows players to be the Duke himself, featuring all new re-recorded script and lines voiced by Jon St. John.

OUTLAST 2 – April 25 | Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Red Barrels’ sequel to their 2013 game, featuring a new location and protagonist. The story follows journalist Blake Langermann and his wife, Lynn through the Sonora Desert of Arizona. Separated during a helicopter crash when investigating the death of an unknown pregnant woman, Blake must find his wife while traversing through a village, inhabited by a sect that believes the end of days is upon them.

Sounds like the perfect setup for more scares and horror, even during Spring. Originally, Outlast 2 was supposed to release in Fall 2016, but was postponed due to development issues and other complications. The game will feature similar mechanics of the first Outlast, with a few improvements.

Most notable of them is an improved camera since Blake’s profession is also a cameraman. The camera will still feature night vision, but will have clearer footage, zoom, and an audio detection system built into the speakers so the player can detect distant footsteps and “other” noises.

Fun Fact? The Australian Classification Board refused to grant Outlast 2 a rating due to certain content depicted within the game, which prevents it from being sold in Australian stores. You can read up on the details: HERE.

PUYO PUYO TETRIS – April 25 | PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Crossovers are becoming more and more popular in video games, though prominent in the fighting genre, other games can do it too! Puzzle games, for instance. Puyo Puyo Tetris brings the blocks and globs to the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

The game features five major battle modes: Versus– which pits players against one another, Fusion– that has both Puyos and Tetriminos dropped within the same puzzle field, Swap– a mode where players play either Puyo Puyo or Tetris at the start of the match and swap puzzle fields at set intervals, Big Bang– requiring players to clear the field with a given number of Puyos or Minos to generate a garbage pile to dump on the opposition, and Party– where various items are dropped into fields that give special effects when cleared that can hinder opponents or help the player gain an advantage.

While it could fair well on either console, my gut tells me that – if you have a Switch – get it for the Switch. Puyo Puyo Tetris offers party and versus modes that seem perfect for the Switch due to its portability and impromptu local multiplayer capabilities.

Fun Fact: Puyo Puyo has been around since 1991, and was developed by Compile before Sega acquired the franchise in 1998. Sonic Team has been developing Puyo Puyo titles ever since, starting with Minna de Puyo Puyo, released in 2001 for the Game Boy Advance.

PREY – May 5 | Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

This one has a fair amount of promise. A re-imagining of the original Prey from 2006, made by Arkane Studios, the same development studio behind Dishonored and Dishonored 2. Prey is a first-person shooter set in space on a moon-orbiting space station.

Where things start to go upside-down is when research is conducted on a hostile alien collective referred to as, the Typhon. The player must then use a variety of weapons and abilities derived from the Typhon experiments to avoid being killed by the aliens while attempting to escape the orbiting space station.

First of all, any time experiments are done on aliens in space, the probability of life-and-death situations dramatically increases. It also lends itself as an excuse to use firearms openly where you otherwise could-should-and-would not because, you know, aliens are trying to rip your face off and stuff. Good times ahead.

INJUSTICE 2 – May 16 | PlayStation 4, Xbox One

“Fight night! The greatest gladiator match in the world. God versus Man. Day versus Night. Son of Kry-“ Okay, to be fair, that match up is possible in Injustice 2. Might want to change some words here and there depending on who’s fighting who, but you get the idea.

Injustice is still among us, and now, with a beefier roster and a new gear customization feature. The gear system is a pretty neat addition, with each piece of armor granting different stats, abilities, and altering the visual appearance of characters.

As for the roster, it has expanded quite a bit, featuring most of the previous cast with new additions such as: Brainiac, Deadshot, Poison Ivy, Black Canary, Blue Beetle, Robin, Scarecrow, Supergirl, and my personal favorite: Swamp Thing! There are plenty more heroes and villains, with up to 8 planned DLC characters to be added over time – Darkseid being one of them if you preorder the game.

Do note that Injustice 2 will have 3 different versions available: standard, digital deluxe, and ultimate. The digital deluxe comes with a Power Girl premiere skin, 3 DLC characters, and 1 exclusive shader pack. The ultimate edition includes all 3 premiere skins (Power Girl, Reverse-Flash, and John Stewart Green Lantern), 9 DLC characters, and 2 exclusive shader packs.

Premiere skins are armor pieces that change the appearance and voice when given to certain characters while shader packs are essentially different color palettes. Prices increase depending on the package, $59.99 for standard, $79.99 for digital deluxe, and $99.99 for the ultimate edition (USD). Pick your poison as you would pick your fighter.

DISGAEA 5 COMPLETE – May 23 | Nintendo Switch

Oh, Disgaea. I have such a disorderly admiration for this franchise. It’s entertaining, tedious, engaging, and confusing – many times, all within a single instance. Disgaea games are known for offering (note the wording here) a grind should you seek one, satisfying strategic, turn-based gameplay, and a cast of characters with story predicaments that vary from crude, self-referential, perverse, endearing, and weird.

Any time Disgaea comes out with a new title or port, I just have this internal obligation to mention it. It’s such an oddity that I almost wish I could become estranged to its charm, but that would be kind of cruel in of itself. The Switch edition, Disgaea 5 Complete, is the base game with all of the previously released DLC on the PlayStation 4 and no new additional content.

With that said, you will soon be able to own the latest entry of the franchise on the Nintendo Switch! Soon, you will be able to play it where ever you go, carrying it around with you like the burden of a turtleneck sweater. Unless you live in Japan, then you already have access to it, as it was part of the original launch line-up.

FINAL FANTASY XIV: STORMBLOOD – June 20 | Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Mac OS

The second expansion pack of the massively multiplayer online game. New features include dungeons and raids, zones and content that allow flight, swimming and diving, an increased level cap to 70, changes to the battle system, and two new jobs: Samurai and the classic Red Mage.

The addition of the Red Mage makes this all worth while. For those curious about what’s going to happen lore-wise, the main story will focus on liberating the city states of Ala Mhigo and Doma from the Garlean empire. On a sad note, the release of Stormblood will also mark the official end of PlayStation 3 support for Final Fantasy XIV.

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