As a rule at Cane And Rinse we try to avoid unqualified speculation about the future of gaming. However, in the spirit of embracing the new Gregorian calendar year, I thought I would share with you my anticipation – and trepidation – regarding some notable titles due to be released in the period between now and next December. In this first part I’ll be looking at those games already committed to release within Quarters 1 and 2.
Namco’s 15-year-old series apparently peaked with the peerless Dreamcast incarnation way back in 1999 (still available to play, albeit in partially compromised form, on Xbox Live Arcade). Subsequent sequels have been well-received by the press but hampered in the eyes of fans by gimmicks such as inappropriate non-canon characters from various other franchises and mythos’ (Spawn and Link in II, Yoda and Darth Vader in IV) or unnecessary alternate modes of play such as Chronicles of the Sword – a sort of quasi turn-based strategy affair – in the PlayStation exclusive SCIII. Once again the Project Soul team doesn’t have the confidence to launch without something in there to attempt to lure in the fan-base of a separate Western franchise; in SCV Ezio from the Assassin’s Creed series will guest on both formats. While this still irks this fan of the series since the first instalment (Soul Edge/Blade) in 1996/7 I can accept that, whilst a crass inclusion, Ezio is a better fit to the pseudo-medieval fantasy world of the Soul series than Lucas’ Jedi warriors or Todd McFarlane’s lame comic book action figures. While it’s inconceivable that this will return the series to the heights of critical and commercial acclaim it enjoyed in the late nineties, I’m mildly optimistic that SoulCalibur 5 will be a worthwhile addition to my extensive fighting game library. We’ll find out if this optimism is founded in early February. I’m also hopeful that any advertising in the UK won’t be as reductive, exploitative and badly drawn as the Japanese campaign.
Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise (aka Rhythm Heaven Fever (US) aka Minna No Rhythm Tengoku (Japan))
The first non-handheld instalment of this now half-decade old Nintendo music series will be one of the last significant Wii releases for many devotees of predecessors Rhythm Tengoku (GBA) and Rhythm Tengoku Gold (DS). These games very simply ask you to press a small selection of controller buttons very closely in time with the music. What makes these stand out from more conventional offerings is the charming combination of cute characters, catchy music and surreal scenarios. I’m looking forward to a refreshing yet demanding palette-cleanser of a game with ample potential for amusing local pass-the-‘mote multiplayer shenanigans.
A belated reboot for this much-loved noughties ‘extreme’ stalwart that looks far more promising now in its latter stages of development than when it was first teased some time ago as ‘Deadly Descents’. This generation has been missing high quality, adrenalised alternative sports action and EA Canada is shaping up to fit the bill with SSX 2012. If the final game retains the delicious feel of the snow and control of the board as well as the tangible sense of fun that the original games had and also incorporates ‘Autolog’ style leaderboards and online play, I’m confident that this will provide huge amounts of entertainment.
Mass Effect 3
My headstrong, Lazarus-like Fem-Shep lies patiently on my 360’s hard drive (and there’s a copy of her in the cloud too – I’m not stupid) waiting to be thawed from suspended animation and plunged back into the beguiling galaxy of Mass Effect. A jarful of doubts has started to pollute what once was once a sea of pure excitement for the conclusion to the trilogy however: Firstly BioWare have apparently started to spread themselves thin over multiple studios, genres and franchises. Secondly Dragon Age II was – by almost all accounts (I admit I didn’t get more than a couple of hours in) – a huge let down. Finally, talk of varying play styles and multi-player modes has me concerned that the overall experience may be compromised or diluted. This is the one game coming out early this year that I really don’t want the developers to fuck up.
Of course the PlayStation Vita will be launching in this period with a handful of tempting exclusives, however it’s extremely unlikely that I’ll be an early adopter. I’ll be waiting, as I do, for a hardware price drop and/or a game to be released that I simply have to own. Far more enticing to me at this point are the four ‘HD’ remake compilations on their way in the first half of this year with Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Zone of the Enders and Devil May Cry each featuring a bundle of last-gen classics at what I consider to be a bargain price. I understand that not everyone is a fan of these re-releases but for me the opportunity to play these games again – and in some cases for the first time – with the lure of sharper looks, Achievements/Trophies and online leaderboards is way too much to resist.
Look out for Part Two of this feature, covering more of my 2012 future picks, in one week’s time.