Traditionally, July is a pretty dry month for game releases. Most of the big titles have either already hit shelves, or won’t be released until late fall so as to jump on the ever-more-crowded (but still lucrative) holiday-release bandwagon. This July, however, is a little different. There’s not a great deal to look forward to, make no mistake, but there are a few high-profile games – including a few long-awaited platform exclusives – lurking on the near horizon that should be worth your attention. Here’s what you should watch out for, and when (based on US release dates):
Platform: Xbox 360
EU release: July 9
This is the only major Xbox 360 release in July, so thank the gaming gods it's a big one. While you probably won't care about the story in Crackdown 2… or the characters… or the missions… you probably will lose dozens of hours to the superhuman sandbox experience. Remember how addictive collecting orbs and racing across rooftops was in the original Crackdown? Now imagine that with a co-op party of four. Did you have fun driving indestructible sports cars and wall-climbing SUVs in the first game? In the sequel, you can glide through the sky like a flying squirrel, or string vehicles together with bouncy explosive webbing.
Yeah, Crackdown 2 ought to get us through to August quite nicely.
EU release: TBA
Above: Usually, you want to point your gun at the enemy – not your own head. Only in Persona 3 does shooting yourself in the face to save the human race make any sort of sense
If you’ve already played Persona 3 on the PlayStation 2, congratulations. You have experienced one of the finest JRPGs of all time. Like the original, Persona 3 Portable is like catnip for otaku. You’ll get your daily dose of the sort of ‘slice of life’ scenes common in anime and manga, as you steer your main character past the challenges of being an everyday high school student. Studying for mid-terms, joining school clubs and forming bonds with friends is just as important as leveling up your stats and finding new weapons.
It’s rare that you’ll summon creatures based on your characters’ psychological insecurities to battle demons, learn about Japan’s Sengoku era and earn some extra yen by working at a movie theater in a single game. But it’s all in a day’s work in Persona 3. Even the most hardcore Persona fans will appreciate all the tweaks and features in the upcoming portable version. The battle system now includes new team attacks and the ability to directly command all your characters; navigating through the world is much more convenient; and the load times have been dramatically reduced from the original. But the new female protagonist and a ton of new characters to develop Social Links with are the main reasons why Persona 3 Portable remains fresh.
EU release: July 2
We talked about this one-on-one mythological fighter back in the GDC-focused TalkRadar 92. Instead of a 2D side view or Soulcalibur-esque rotating 3D camera, you have offensive and defensive positions that sway back and forth depending on how well you’re performing. In the shot above, the Minotaur is on the attack, but if Akki & Goryo land enough combos, the view will switch, putting them in the dominant, face-forward position. Our biggest concern would be the waggle, as the game is built around shaking and shoving the Wii Remote and Nunchuk quite a bit. What we played worked just fine, but, y’know… waggle.
Platforms: PC, 360, PS3
EU release: July 7
Yes, this game is nearly 20 years old. Yes, it's a point-and-click adventure involving loads of dialogue, loads of inventory and loads of puzzles. Still interested? If neither of those two facts scared you away, then Monkey Island 2 should be your most anticipated title of the month. One of the very best – and funniest – games of all time is being re-released on more platforms, with easier controls, better hint options and way, way, way prettier graphics. Plus, a Mystery Science Theater 3000-style commentary track!
EU release: July 10
Above: “I know what you’re thinking, but not in front of your parents”
This is a bit of a weird one, but for many PC gamers, fond memories of playing King’s Quest back in the day exemplify the best (and, sometimes, worst) aspects of PC gaming. It turns out the series isn’t quite dead yet, thanks to indie project The Silver Lining. Originally a fan-made entry in the King’s Quest series, Silver Lining showed enough potential for Activision (which currently owns King’s Quest) to publish it, starting in July with Episode 1: What is Decreed Must Be, and continuing as episodes throughout the year. All we know about it so far is that you’ll play as King Graham as he tries to unravel the cause of a curse that’s been placed upon his children. It will be totally free to download and play, so you can try it for yourself and find out how good a fan-made game can be.