Just because it’s nearing the end of February doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten my top five monthly niche game picks! February has seen an onslaught of great titles, and it’s clear that 2013 is going to pack in as many quality releases as possible. This month we’ve got three exciting, but very different, RPGs, as well as a spinoff on a popular otome game and the return of everyone’s favorite brain training series. So, before you get too excited by the pile of games March promises, take a moment to peruse these lovely titles and make sure you’re not missing something worthwhile.
Everyone needs a little The Legend of Zelda-inspired 16-bit action RPG in their life, don’t you agree? In the beautiful indie game Anodyne, players take control of a man named Young as he travels through his own subconscious in this surreal throwback to retro gaming. Unlike the straightforward “rescue princess, save the world” premise of traditional titles, however, Anodyne delves deeper into the human psyche itself, its eerie, dreamlike soundtrack pulling players right into the experience. But don’t take my word for it – go try the demo and see for yourself. The game is currently available on PC, Mac, and Linux via the official website, but the duo behind the artistic title are currently trying to get it Greenlight on Steam, so if the demo tickles your fancy, head over and give them a thumbs up!
The original Brain Age was something of a phenomenon when it hit the Nintendo DS back in 2006, captivating Nintendo’s usual audience and non-gamers alike. It came as a bit of a surprise, then, that the 3DS entry in the popular brain workout series is only coming out in English now, nearly two years after the 3DS launched in North America. This time around, Dr. Kawashima’s goal is not to calculate the ages of people’s brains, but to improve players’ concentration and short-term memory through a collection of new and familiar minigames. The game has a new feature called Devilish Training mode where the difficulty dynamically changes depending on how well you’re doing. More hardcore gamers will be particularly interested in the new Block Head minigame developed by Crashmo developer Intelligent System. Those interested in improving their concentration can download the demo now in the 3DS eShop.
Aksys is on a role with the Hakuoki series after releasing Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom in February last year. While the first game was 100% otome visual novel, Warriors of the Shinsengumi is in fact a spinoff of the Dynasty Warriors/Samurai Warriors formula, putting players in the shoes of the members of the Shinsengumi. Once again, dialogue is fully voiced in Japanese, and illustrated portraits depict the handsome young men in their new warrior garb and disheveled locks. Of course, if oogling the men isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of hacking and slashing your way through the events of Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom. There’s even a separate story unique to Warriors of the Shinsengumi, and with six playable characters, fans of the series will have plenty to keep them busy.
Let me tell you, nothing tickles my fancy more than seeing two PSP games on our list this month. Who said it was dead? JRPG titles like Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection not only extend the life of the handheld, but give PS Vita owners something to play on that beautiful OLED screen during dry release periods, so I’d say it’s win/win for everyone.
Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection is actually the 6th entry in the long-running series, but unlike previous titles, this one was made with the collaboration of Sting, the developers behind the 2012 release Gungnir. As such, battles play out a little differently than before: this time, large-scale battles have been swapped for smaller scale real-time tactical battles. The new “Attack Chance” system even resembles a rhythm game, allowing players to deal increased damage after pressing buttons in a timed sequence. Those who enjoyed Fire Emblem: Awakening and want more tactical RPG action would do well to check this one out.
Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan marks the first title in the traditionally brutal dungeon crawler to make its way onto the 3DS. The series is known for its harsh difficulty and map-drawing feature that sees players cataloging their progress using the touch screen, but Etrian Odyssey IV has a couple of new features that make it perfect for newcomers to the series. Casual mode takes the difficulty down a notch by teleporting players back to the nearest town when they die and providing an item that allows you to warp back to safety whenever necessary, making the game decidedly more approchable than previous installments. With Fire Emblem: Awakening taking the 3DS RPG spotlight this month, I wouldn’t blame you if this game weren’t on your radar, but fans of old-school turn-based RPGs would do well to try the new, beefy demo now available on the 3DS eShop.