It’s the end of January and that refreshing winter lull is finally coming to an end—hope you carved a decent chunk out of your backlog! Triple-A titles are officially back in season with this week’s two big releases, and boy, are they big.
Despite the generally disappointed reactions to its predecessor, Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2 remains the most anticipated game out this week. Following the precedent they set nearly a decade ago with Final Fantasy X-2, Yoshinori Kitase and his team have dreamed up another direct Final Fantasy sequel, which is unusual for a series known for introducing a completely new setting and storyline with each game. You’ll play as Serah, sister of XIII‘s heroine, and encounter familiar faces and locations along your adventure, which is shorter than a typical Final Fantasy but does attempt to address some of people’s complaints about the original, like its infamous linearity.
As someone who still hasn’t played the original XIII, I’m not quite sure what to make of XIII-2. This is definitely not the Final Fantasy sequel people wanted. (That title goes to the awkwardly named Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which is seemingly stuck in an endless development cycle.) To the skeptics, though, I’ll offer this advice: People easily laughed off Final Fantasy X-2 for its popstar wackiness (and to be fair, that part of it was awful), but the game itself was a surprising departure from X that ended up being an enjoyable, if wholly different, experience. If you don’t have many fond memories of Final Fantasy XIII, it might be worth spending some time with XIII-2 (or at least the demo) to see if it’s more your style this time around.
This week’s other big release is one I’m especially looking forward to: Soulcalibur V, the latest in Namco’s long-running Soul series of weapon-based fighters. As a loyal Street Fighter fan in the ’90s, it took me some time to warm up to the series’s 3D combat when I was first introduced to it via Soulcalibur II. But, after getting a handle on horizontal and vertical attacks, guard impacts, and the 8-way run, Soulcalibur quickly became my favorite fighting series because of its elegant, rock-paper-scissors gameplay and its minimalist design. This fifth entry (or maybe it’s the sixth or even seventh, depending on how you count) leans a little more toward the Street Fighter side of things with the introduction of special move gauges, a change which I’m honestly not excited about. I’ve been skeptical before though—I’ll be waiting patiently today for my copy to arrive so I can see how it all comes together. If you’re playing it on the PS3, send metaly a friend request and prepare to defend yourself!
If you’re looking for something less Japanese, there’s the quirky NeverDead, starring an immortal demon hunter who seems to remain undeterred no matter how many of his limbs he loses in battle. The grisly humor and cast of weird characters in this game would make Suda51 proud. Check out this trailer, because I’m not doing it justice just by writing about it.
Are you picking up either Soulcalibur or Final Fantasy this week, or are you making a last, desperate run at your backlog while it’s still somewhat calm? Let us know in the comments!