Welcome to the second quarter of 2017: the big releases have not stopped and there are plenty of smaller games on the way, too. Our Most Anticipated of 2017 has already tackled Yooka-Laylee, so here are four more to keep on your radar for the month.
We would be remiss to skip what might be the biggest RPG of the year, the latest in the long-running Shin Megami Tensei metaseries.
Since Persona 4 (particularly the PlayStation Vita version, Persona 4 Golden) the Persona series has been at the top of the cultural conversation regarding JRPGs and the state of Japanese games in general, garnering nearly universal praise for its style, well realised characters, battle system and original soundtrack. With Persona 5‘s reviews suggesting this new entry is just as polished in these areas as its predecessor, not to mention key improvements in graphics technology and dungeon design, it could even pip Breath of the Wild from its lofty spot atop the year’s best reviewed titles.
Just like last year’s Final Fantasy XV, Persona 5 is marketed toward ‘long-time fans and newcomers’, as every Persona game features a new cast and a story unconnected to the last, save a few Easter-eggs that reveal connections to the wider world of the series.
As in previous Persona games, the story follows a group of high-schoolers who discover they can affect the world around them by combating demons and other supernatural creatures, using extensions of their own personality (‘personas’). Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets the anime series Bleach and you are most of the way there. Although Persona 3‘s plot had a sci-fi-horror edge and Persona 4 was heavily inspired by murder mysteries, Persona 5 centres around the angsty, roguish theme of picaresque novels such as Don Quixote, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Catcher in the Rye.
Taking place over a single year, by day the game mixes elements of time management and dating sims—going to school, working a part time job and hanging out with friends. By night, the students take on the role of supernatural cat burglars, stealing ill intentions out of the minds of adults by conquering Palaces and Mementos; dungeons that represent the conscious or unconscious desires of the adults in question. Battles are conducted using a challenging system of strengths and weaknesses, balancing teams of various personas similarly to the Pokemon games.
Players with families, beware, however: as part of the MegaTen franchise, expect the dark and disturbing as much as the flashy anime action—like the young adult fiction that Persona 5 emulates, it does not simply depict themes of graphic violence and sex (such as in Mass Effect‘s “soft-core space porn”), its story is straight up twisted and confronting. For the same reason, though, it will probably attract the teen audience as much as older RPG fans for its frank exploration of adolescence.
Persona 5 releases on April 4 for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.
MARVEL’S GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: A TELLTALE SERIES
With several big Marvel titles scheduled over the coming years, Telltale’s original announcement of a Marvel adaptation might have been overshadowed by more action-packed proposals like Insomniac’s Spider-Man and Square Enix’s Avengers Reassemble. But with experience adapting comic books and a great sense of comedy (see most recently Tales from the Borderlands) Telltale are the prime candidate for the first major release in Marvel’s new video game initiative.
Following the same five Guardians as introduced in the 2014 feature, the story has the team discover an artefact that they each want for their own ends. However, they all have to work together to keep the artefact from falling into the hands of powerful villain.
Each of the five episodes will centre around a particular Guardian, though given Telltale’s history of switching playable characters this might not be as rigid as it sounds. With a cast of excellent voice actors, including Nolan North as Rocket Raccoon, as well as Telltale’s established aesthetic, Guardians of the Galaxy should be a fun ride—as long as their creaky game engine holds up while playing.
The first episode, Tangled Up in Blue, releases on April 18 for just about every current platform except Nintendo Switch, and we can hope for that down the track, too.
‘WHAT REMAINS OF EDITH FINCH’ and ‘LITTLE NIGHTMARES’
Perhaps it seems reductive to put both of these smaller games together, but it is more a reflection of their coincidental release timing and shared themes. What Remains of Edith Finch comes to us from Giant Sparrow, developers of the brief, creative walking-puzzle-solver The Unfinished Swan. Little Nightmares, on the other hand, is the second original IP this year to come from an assistant LittleBigPlanet developer (the first being Sumo Digital’s Snake Pass)—in this case the developers are Tarsier Studios.
Both Edith Finch and Little Nightmares are adventure games from Sony’s second-party collaborators, though both have been picked up by third-party publishers for release on Windows and, for Little Nightmares, Xbox One as well. Both games are also chiefly centred around the controlled exploration of tone: and an unsettling tone at that.
What Remains of Edith Finch follows the eponymous Edith as she explores her old family home where the events that defined her various family members’ lives are preserved inside their rooms. Players explore the house in first person, learning the stories of the now-deceased residents and how they relate to the protagonist’s current life.
Somewhere between the magic realism of Roald Dahl and the lunacy of Lewis Carroll, each of the rooms sketches a short story with its own gameplay hook, often including a grim twist. Though it appears to lean more towards the wrongly-maligned “walking simulator” genre, expect more developed mechanics than just picking up and looking at domestic objects.
Little Nightmares adopts the 2.5D perspective of Tarsier’s LittleBigPlanet games—without the rigid “layers” Sackboy has to move between—crossed with the gloomy, existential dread of Inside. Players take control of Six, a kidnapped girl who has to escape an underwater resort known as The Maw; an expressionist world of Brothers Grimm dread and enough stitchpunk to make Tim Burton blush.
The game’s simple narrative hook leads to straight-up survival horror gameplay, just with less blood. Stealth and puzzle-solving are the order of the day: if the game can keep the action interesting while players explore its oppressive setting, Bioshock‘s Rapture might get a run for its money in the competition for best undersea dystopia.
What Remains of Edith Finch releases on the 25th for PC and PS4, while Little Nightmares spooks everybody on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on April 28.
But these are not the only promising single player games—the release calendar is as packed as ever. On the 18th, two more adventure games join Guardians of the Galaxy at the storefront: Full Throttle Remastered—the latest remastered Tim Schafer joint—comes to PC, PS4 and PSVita, and The Silver Case, a murder mystery from Goichi Suda and Grasshopper Manufacture, comes to PS4 after its PC release late last year.
On the 25th, Dragon Quest Heroes II brings more fantasy-musou action to PS4 and both Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 and Outlast 2 hit PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Also scheduled is the long delayed Syberia III, on PC, PS4 and Xbox One with a Nintendo Switch release later down the track.
For fans of real-time strategy, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III releases on April 27 for PC, and the well-received visual novel Psycho Pass: Mandatory Happiness hits Steam for those who missed it on PS4 and PSVita.
Is there anything else you are itching to play in April that we missed? Or has one of March’s games grabbed you without letting go? Share in the comments below and see you next month.