The games of March 2012

March 11

Mario Party 9

Platform: Nintendo Wii
EU: March 2

Mario Party fever finally died down this console generation, following a trio of Nintendo 64 entries and a whopping four GameCube iterations. Of course, with mini-game collections flooding the early Wii launch coffers, it's no surprise that Nintendo saw it fit to ease up this time around. Mario Party 9 – which arrives five years after the previous Wii release – is here to help bookend the system's library, and it brings with it some fresh options. Chief among them is the introduction of boss battles to the boards, as well as the ability to travel around in vehicles in the Party Adventure mode. Otherwise, expect plenty of Wii Remote waggling in the 80-or-so mini-games.

March 13


Platform: PSN (PlayStation 3)
EU: March 14

How Thatgamecompany turned a game about flower petals on the wind into such an unexpectedly emotional adventure reeks of witchcraft, but we're still reeling from the impact of playing (and replaying) Flower. Based on what we've seen and played of the developer's follow-up, Journey, we're expecting the same kind of lasting imprint thanks to its innovative co-op approach. Wandering through the gorgeous desert, you'll encounter random online partners with no knowledge of their identity or way to directly communicate – instead, you must work together in a silent partnership. It's multiplayer without the typical hang-ups of playing with others. As with Flower, expect the unexpected (and wondrous) with Journey.

Silent Hill: Downpour

Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
EU: March 16

Konami's Silent Hill franchise hasn't been terribly prolific in recent years, but the publisher seems intent on wholeheartedly reversing that trend with three releases in as many weeks this month. The most important one kicks off the barrage, as Silent Hill: Downpour – the first wholly original core entry since 2008's Silent Hill: Homecoming – debuts on Xbox 360 and PS3. In our most recent preview, we opined that Downpour may be "the best [entry] since Silent Hill 2," thanks to a renewed focus on exploration, dynamic weather that reflects your level of danger, and refined combat that gives the hero a fighting chance when matched up against certain foes. With luck, it'll be the right combination of elements to vault Silent Hill into winning territory this generation.

FIFA Street

Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
EU: March 16

Swapping grass for asphalt seems like a pretty significant change for a soccer (football) title, but past FIFA Street entries attempted to differentiate the series further with cartoon-stylized players and over-the-top tricks. With this fresh reboot, EA Sports aims to get back to basics: it's street football, but without the unrealistic shenanigans. With six-on-six, five-on-five, and one-on-one matches, as well as a special mode in which each five-man team loses a player when they score, FIFA Street aims to deliver a faster take on the sport that still feels realistic, thanks to the core of the traditional FIFA engine found underneath. We found it quite fun in our last hands-on, but we'll find out soon whether it's a long-lasting buzz.

Yakuza: Dead Souls

Platform: PlayStation 3
EU: March 16

For some time there, it wasn't clear whether we'd continue receiving the super-niche (though huge in Japan) Yakuza series, but last year's release of Yakuza 4 delivered the last of the core entries to the PlayStation 3. Come later this month, we'll finally get a crack at one of the spin-offs – one that features zombies. Indeed, Sega's Japanese mafia action series embraces the undead phenomenon in Yakuza: Dead Souls, which stars familiar characters from the main series fighting through a zombie invasion in the fictional modern-day Tokyo district of Kamurocho. It's a curious new direction, but one that should prove amusing – and hopefully for more than just its absurdity.

Reality Fighters

Platform: PlayStation Vita
EU: Out

The Nintendo 3DS AR Cards are such a cool demonstration of tech, but they're not exactly designed to serve as a long lasting or particularly fulfilling play experience. So we're curious to see how Sony's Reality Fighters for Vita extrapolates on that concept, as this portable fighter sets up one-on-one battles that take place on your coffee table or a crosswalk. Reality Fighters can use AR cards for a base or do without, and it also puts you in the game as a fighter by snapping your mug and letting you customize the created character that emerges. Will this be a satisfying new fighter or a short-lived curiosity? We're anxious to find out.

Tales of Graces F

Platform: PlayStation 3

We never received the original Wii version of Tales of Graces here in the States following its late 2009 launch in Japan, but Namco Bandai hopes to appease the Tales faithful this month with Tales of Graces F, an expanded PlayStation 3 version that adds exclusive content. It's the first PS3 entry to hit North America and Europe, and while the game maintains familiar play elements from other series entries, it features an all-new storyline, as well as a bonus 10-hour epilogue not seen in the original Wii iteration. All told, Tales of Graces F offers about 50 hours of core role-playing adventure, giving JRPG fans a meaty option to consider once they've wrapped up Final Fantasy XIII-2.


Platform: PSN, PC
EU: March 13

Originally released on Xbox Live Arcade last month as part of the XBLA Block Party promotion, EA and Trapdoor's Warp is set to debut on PlayStation Network and PC in just a couple short weeks. We got a kick out of this oddly adult-themed stealth-action game, in which a powerful creature breaks free from the scientists that held him captive and aims to exact a little shockingly gory revenge while regaining his skills in Metroid-like fashion. True, the pairing of cartoonish visuals and ample blood and vulgarity comes off a little strangely, but interesting puzzles and cool powers (like teleporting into foes and detonating them from within) make it a standout.

Shoot Many Robots

Platform: XBLA, PSN, PC
XBLA/EU: March 14

It doesn't require that educated of a guess to postulate that Shoot Many Robots follows its titular concept to a T – and sure enough, the side-scrolling, four-player online co-op experience is all about blasting the sentient metal guys to bits. As our recent video preview noted, the result feels a bit like Metal Slug platform action set against Borderlands-esque backdrops, and the game offers no shortage of available foes, often flooding the screen with enemies to disassemble with buckshot. Despite the nearly identical hero characters, ample weapon and gear options should ensure that each player stands out amidst the chaos.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations

Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
EU: March 30

Why add a number to an anime and manga-based fighting sequel when you can make its already jumbled title even more of a mouthful to pronounce? Case in point: In a couple weeks, Naruto fans will be able to snag the more-than-a-mouthful Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations, which looks a whole lot like the previous ones – namely, a gorgeous adaptation of the source material with some seriously zany action. Generations is said to be a bit speedier in combat than its two direct predecessors, along with a more streamlined story mode and the addition of beastly fighter transformations.

Ridge Racer

Platform: PlayStation Vita
EU: Out

Ridge Racer got pushed back from the Vita launch, despite the series' lengthy tradition of being there on day one, but the base prospect of a new handheld iteration is still pretty exciting on the surface. The Vita release looks nearly identical to the others we've seen on PlayStation 3, PSP, and Xbox 360 in recent years, and features many of the same cars and tracks that have populated the series at one time or another – but something's different here. For $30, you get just three tracks out of the box, with others available as premium DLC. Believe us, it's insulting – we stated as much in our UK review. But we also still quite enjoyed the game, despite all that, so your mileage may vary based on your reaction to the pricing shenanigans.

Planet Crashers 3D

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Part of a wider-ranging new franchise from Ignition that's set to include a free-to-play PC game and iOS apps, Planet Crashers 3D is a cartoonish RPG that feels a bit like a dungeon crawler, albeit with turn-based battles. It's really flown under the radar, but from what we saw a few months back, the tale spotlights a recent graduate of the Planet Crashers Academy, who must stop an evil force from blocking out the sun and freezing over the galaxy. Running around a spherical, Animal Crossing-like planet, you can chat up NPCs and take on quests, which then transport you into flatter dungeons to traverse. Planet Crashers 3D seems like it's aiming to deliver a lighter take on the dungeon crawlers, and we're curious to see how it pans out.