Michael’s 15 Most Anticipated Games of 2013

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As it stands right now, 2013 is forecasted to be the most exciting year in video games in a good long while. Not only are console manufacturers Microsoft and Sony expected to unveil their next generation systems before the end of June, but Valve, Nvidia, PlayJam, and others challengers plan to disrupt the natural ebb and flow of things by introducing Android and Linux-based hardware alternatives into the market. Couple all that with Nintendo’s inevitable push to jack up Wii U sales with exciting first-party game announcements, and well, to quote industry veteran Tadhg Kelly, it’s going to be consoleapalooza up in here.

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Photo credit: NeoGAF

It’s sure to be a transitional year for video games, but don’t take that to mean we can’t count on the big publishers pulling out the big guns for the platforms millions of us already own. Au contraire, with three possible exceptions, all of the titles listed below are being developed with currently available hardware in mind. Which is good, because as my fellow Nintendo fans can no doubt attest, no one likes software droughts!

But yes, on to the topic at hand…

Welcome to My Most Anticipated Games of 2013 write-up, Internet! For those unfamiliar with my tastes, hopefully this sheds some light on me, the omnipresent curator of VGNN! It took me a bit longer than anticipated to write all this out, but hopefully it was worth the wait!

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Disclaimer:  You’re not going to see any games on this list that haven’t been announced yet, so no Persona 5 or Half-Life 3 even though I believe there’s a good chance one of those games could be unveiled and released in at least one region by the end of this year. Additionally, you’re not going to see any games that haven’t had promotional material — whether it be in-game footage, CG trailer, a story premise, or concept art — shown to the general public or game’s media, even if their existence has been teased by their developers, so no Super Smash Bros. 4, 3D Mario for Wii U, Fallout 4, or The Walking Dead Season 2. Finally, you’re not going to see any games that have been in development limbo for the last half decade, like The Last Guardian or Final Fantasy Versus XIII. I mean, c’mon… those games are clearly never coming out. (I am half-joking here.)

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Anyway, without further ado, here are the thirteen fifteen games I’m most looking forward to in 2013, in alphabetical order:

Beyond Two Souls

Beyond: Two Souls 

Developer: Quantic Dream
Platform(s): PlayStation 3
Release Date: TBD 2013

In some ways, 2010′s Heavy Rain was the precursor to my 2012 Game of the Year, The Walking Dead. Created by French developer Quantic Dream, Heavy Rain was a cinematic, choose-your-own adventure thriller with multiple outcomes dependent upon the player’s choices and performance in quick-time event challenges. It was an incredibly polarizing game, receiving a fair share of criticism for its limited gameplay, uneven writing, and its proximity to the “Uncanny Valley,” but it was, nonetheless, one that I genuinely enjoyed for its unique approach to storytelling in the medium. So, unsurprisingly, I’ve been interested in Beyond: Two Souls, the spiritual (literally) successor to Heavy Rain, ever since Sony debuted the title at their E3 2012 Press Conference last summer.

Beyond centers around one of life’s greatest mysteries: what happens to us after we die? It tells the story of a young woman, Jodie Holmes (portrayed and mo-capped by actress Ellen Page), who’s shared a life-long spiritual connection with a destructive, ghost-like entity that only she can see and communicate with, named Idan. Like Heavy Rain, players will be able to alter the story of the game — which covers roughly 15 years of Jodie’s life (ages 8-23) — with their actions, but unlike Heavy Rain, gameplay won’t just be limited to quicktime events, sometimes allowing players to manually take control of Idan during the game’s more action-packed moments. Whether it successfully converts players put off by the gameplay of its predecessor or not, however, Beyond’s sure to serve as one of the PlayStation 3′s most technically sophisticated games to date. Indeed, if only for the visuals and storytelling techniques, I highly look forward to seeing what industry auteur and Quantic Dream CEO, David Cage, and his team deliver with this game.

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Watch the debut trailer for Beyond: Two Souls here.

BioShock Infinite

BioShock Infinite 

Developer: Irrational Games
Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: March 26

A non-direct prequel set decades before the original BioShock, Infinite abandons the underwater, Objectivist dystopia of Rapture in favor of Columbia, an ultranationalist, steampunk-inspired city suspended in the sky. Built by the United States government at the turn of the twentieth century, the floating city of Columbia was meant to be a symbol of American exceptionalism, but it was later disavowed by the country due to “an international incident” involving the unlawful execution of Chinese immigrants. As a result of the city’s isolation, a civil war eventually broke out on Columbia between two different radical fringe factions: the Founders (remnants of the city’s xenophobic ruling class) and the Vox Populi (a rag-tag resistance group that fights — with unsavory methods — to seize control and restore the rights of Columbia citizenship to all).

At the heart of Infinite’s story, however, is the personal tale of disgraced Pinkerton agent, Booker DeWitt, and a young woman with space-time continuum-altering powers, named Elizabeth. Set in the year 1912, the game’s story begins when Booker is hired by mysterious individuals, aware of Columbia’s location, and tasked to infiltrate the air-city and rescue Elizabeth, who has been held prisoner for the last dozen years. Though Booker finds Elizabeth easily enough, he quickly discovers that Elizabeth is central to the civil war raging in the city as each faction seeks to use Elizabeth’s powers to turn the tide of the conflict in their favor. To complicate matters further, the pair is chased by the Songbird, a large, robotic bird-like creature who had been Elizabeth’s friend and warden during her imprisonment.

While I could go on and on about the game’s fascinating premise, to switch gears to the gameplay side of the equation: BioShock Infinite looks to continue the “Shock” series tradition of merging fast-paced, first-person shooting with fantastical powers and character customization/augmentation. What really sets Infinite apart from previous BioShock titles, however, are the sky rails scattered throughout Columbia that allow Booker — with the help of a wrist-mounted tool — to roller coaster around the city even during combat. It looks insanely cool, and if it’s anywhere near as fluid and seamless as the preview footage suggests, this game’s going to be one hell of a technical achievement.

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Watch the Beast of America trailer for BioShock Infinite here.

Dead Space 3

Dead Space 3 

Developer: Visceral Games
Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: February 5

As the name implies, Dead Space 3 is the third mainline entry in Electronic Art’s exceptional action-horror franchise. The original Dead Space and its sequel are easily two of my favorite games of this generation, in no small part due to their satisfying shooting, excellent control, atmosphere, and replay value, so it goes without saying that my expectations for this title are high, even in spite of all the controversial changes Visceral Games are making to the core gameplay formula. While I’m definitely not a fan of universal ammo drops for all weapon types in the game, the inclusion of optional, drop-in, drop-out campaign co-op was ameliorated for me when Visceral elaborated on their unique approach to the mode, which has player 2-controlled character John Carver suffering from the same Marker-induced dementia series protagonist Isaac Clarke dealt with in the previous games. It should definitely make replaying through the campaign a second time with a friend more interesting than one would expect, at least. And after spending some time with the demo, I’m also warming up to the idea of the new weapon crafting and upgrade system in the game, which does away with the tried-and-true power node system. Hopefully it encourages other players to not just stick with the Plasma Cutter for the entire campaign.

I must admit, my investment in the greater Dead Space fiction plays a huge factor in this game making this Top 15 list, as well. The four-way conflict between CEC Engineer Isaac Clarke, the corrupt higher-ups of Earth Gov., the fanatical Church of Unitology, and the sentient, Necromorph-begetting Markers has been surprisingly compelling throughout the series, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious to see where Visceral Studios takes the story next. Here’s hoping Visceral expand upon the fiction in some interesting ways and make good on their promise of delivering the largest, most non-linear Dead Space campaign yet.

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Watch the Two Ways to Play trailer for Dead Space 3 here.

Destiny

Destiny

Developer: Bungie
Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Unannounced Next-Generation Platforms
Expected Release Date: Late 2013

Before Halo: Reach even shipped back in Fall of 2010, it was announced that renowned developer Bungie had signed a monumental 10-year publishing deal with Activision, the curators of the Call of Duty franchise. The announcement took the industry by storm, but it wasn’t until the Activision court case with Infinity Ward co-founders Frank West and Vince Zampella in May of 2012 that gamers learned anything substantial about the next action game series from the creators of Halo. In an Activision contract made public as part of court proceedings in said trial, it was revealed that Bungie is developing four “sci-fantasy action shooter games,” code-named “Destiny,” for Activision, with the first game scheduled for a Fall 2013 launch on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Microsoft’s next-generation Xbox. Leaked materials provided to IGN later revealed the set-up for Destiny’s story: “Our story begins seven hundred years from now in the Last City on Earth, in a Solar System littered with the ruins of man’s Golden Age. A massive, mysterious alien ship (called ‘The Traveler’) hangs overhead like a second Moon. No one knows where it came from or what it’s here for, but only that it’s our protector. Meanwhile, strange, alien monsters creep in from the edge of the universe, determined to take Earth and the Last City. We are young ‘knights’ tasked with defending the remains of humanity, discovering the source of these monsters and – eventually – overcoming it.”

Time will tell if the first entry in Destiny will make its scheduled 2013 release, but the intriguing premise, awesome concept art, and developer pedigree have already ensured that I’ll be picking up the game as soon as it shows up on store shelves. With any luck, hopefully those recent rumors stating Bungie intend to officially unveil the game at the Game Developers Conference in March are true, as I really can’t wait to learn more about this one.

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Watch this fan made trailer using leaked concept art for Destiny here.

Fire Emblem Awakening

Fire Emblem: Awakening 

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: February 4

Fresh off my experience with Firaxis’ XCOM: Enemy Unknown, I find myself itching to play another great turn-based strategy RPG, and currently no other game in that genre slated for 2013 has my attention quite like Fire Emblem: Awakening. The eleventh original game in Nintendo’s long-running Fire Emblem strategy RPG series, Awakening is the first title in the series to appear on the Nintendo 3DS. Its story focuses on the trials and tribulations of Chrom, the prince of the Halidom of Ylisse, and his band of companions — the Shepherds — during a turbulent era plagued by unholy forces and untrustworthy neighboring nations.

While the basic premise behind the grid-based tactical RPG gameplay remains the same as previous entries in the series, Awakening features many new features, as well as the return of several underutilized ones from past games in the series. Most notably, players have the choice of several difficulty levels while playing the game, including “Normal,” “Hard,” “Lunatic,” “Lunatic Plus,” as well as the choice between one of two different game modes separate from the difficulty setting, “Classic” and “Casual”. The former is more in line with the permadeath feature the series is known for, where character units, once defeated in battle, are gone for good, while the latter mode features characters automatically reviving post-battle. Similar to the Japanese-only Fire Emblem: Shin Monshō no Nazo: Hikari to Kage no Eiyū, players will be able to create and customize their own playable “Avatar” characters for use in and outside of battle, as well. Additionally, Awakening allows the player to play matchmaker with their units, as characters that battle together in the game can develop emotional ties that eventually lead to marriage and even parenthood over time.

Couple all that with a lengthy (30+ hour) singleplayer campaign, StreetPass-enabled multiplayer modes, and free (for a limited time) downloadable content packs, and it’s easy to see why I’m chomping at the bit to get my hands on this portable title. Only 11 more days!

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Watch the official Fire Emblem: Awakening trailer here.

GTA V

Grand Theft Auto V 

Developer: Rockstar North
Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: September 17

Before Rockstar Games released the second official trailer for Grand Theft Auto V, I couldn’t have been more uninterested in the title. My apathy stemmed from my opinion of the previous entry in the series, Grand Theft Auto IV, which I believe to be one of the most overrated games of this console generation. So imagine my complete surprise when I watched the latest trailer for GTA V last November and proceeded to rewatch said video twenty times over the course of a few hours. (Stevie Wonder’s Skeletons was stuck in my head for DAYS!)

Grand Theft Auto V seems like a return to form for Rockstar’s bread-winning, open-world action-adventure series. Seemingly gone is the overly self-serious nature of GTA IV, replaced with the lighthearted (well, for a gangster drama) and comedic tone characteristic of the PS2 era games. Set in the sprawl of Los Santos, GTA V stars a trio of playable criminals — the retired former bank robber with a dysfunctional family, Michael; the reckless and borderline psychopathic drug peddler, Travis; and the young, up-and-coming repo man, Franklin — and promises to gift players with the ability to freely switch between the three in most situations. It’s an interesting idea, one that already has me gleefully looking forward to all the potential shenanigans and betrayals that may result from such a set-up. I only hope Rockstar North have taken notes from other open-world titles released in the last few years. Games like Sleeping Dogs, Saints Row: The Third, and even Rockstar San Diego’s own Red Dead Redemption have made significant strives towards progressing the genre forward in the moment-to-moment gameplay department, and Grand Theft Auto V would need to step it up considerably in that regard if it hopes to reclaim its crown in my mind.

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Watch the aforementioned Official Trailer #2 for GTA V here.

Killer is Dead

Killer is Dead

Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Expected Release Date: Summer 2013

Announced back in April of 2012 along with several pieces of concept art, Killer is Dead is the next game from Grasshopper Manufacturer and the demented mind of Goichi Suda, the creative forces behind cult hits Killer7, No More Heroes, Shadowed of the Damned, and last year’s Lollipop Chainsaw. Details on the title have been kept under wraps these last nine months, but that all changed last week when Japan’s most widely read and respected video game news magazine, Famitsu, unveiled new details and images of the title.

Set in the distant future where cybernetic enhancements and lunar tourism are commonplace, Killer is Dead stars 35-year-old Mondo Zappa, pictured above, who at the start of the game receives a sudden job offer from an undercover national organization called the Brian Execution Firm. Run by a half-cyborg named Brian Roses, the organization sends Mondo around the world in order to execute a variety of eccentric assassins. It’s very similar to No More Heroes, but unlike Travis Touchdown, Mondo’s a debonair Bond-like figure. Also unlike Travis, Mondo’s katana is decidedly less beam-like in appearance. Oh, and his left arm is cybernetically-enhanced, capable of transforming into guns, drills, and other weapons acquired throughout the game. Beat that, Mr. Touchdown!

Joking aside, this spiritual successor to one of my favorite Wii games is sure to entertain. Count on this stylish romp receiving a North American release date within days or weeks of the Japanese one.

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Watch the debut trailer for Killer is Dead here. 

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Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Developer: Platinum Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: February 19

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was originally announced at E3 2009 under the title of Metal Gear Solid: Rising, and it was intended to serve as an interquel between the events of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. However, series developer Kojima Productions soon met difficulties in developing a game centered around cutting everything, so franchise creator Hideo Kojima was forced to secretly cancel the project. Fortunately, a solution was formed, and the title was reannounced  at the 2011 Spike VGAs, rebranded as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Now a self-contained spin-off set four years after the events of MGS4, the game’s development had been inherited by Platinum Games, the esteemed creators of modern action game marvels Bayonetta and Vanquish, and gamers the world over have been fawning over animated gifs of the game in-action every since…

As a huge fan of the Metal Gear franchise, as well as Platinum Games and their work, Revengeance is easily one of my most anticipated games of the year. Like many Metal Gear fans, I’ve been clamoring for a spin-off title starring the Cyborg Ninja Raiden ever since his unveiling in the E3 2006 trailer for MGS4. When rumors began circulating the net regarding a possible dream team collaboration between Kojima Productions and Platinum Games in order to save this game from development hell, I was ecstatic. I distinctly recall being on cloud 9 when they were confirmed to be true. If Kojima’s cinematic influence and characteristic absurdity can successfully meld with Platinum’s trademark high-octane action and accessible but deep gameplay mechanics, Revengeance could end up being one of the greatest character action games of this generation.

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Watch the E3 2012 trailer for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance here.

Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes

Developer: Kojima Productions
Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Unannounced Next-Generation Platforms
Release Date: TBD 2013

Yup, it’s another Metal Gear game. Unveiled during the 25th Anniversary Metal Gear event last year, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes is the upcoming tenth main entry in the Metal Gear series and the first game running on Kojima Production’s brand new Fox Engine. Series creator Hideo Kojima is writing, directing, designing, and producing the game. The game is currently being developed for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 according to Kojima, which makes an initial release in 2013 likely, but job listings for the game, Kojima’s coyness in recent interviews, and the fidelity of the visuals on display all suggest the game may be in development for the PC and unannounced next-generation platforms, too.

Set between the events of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and the original MSX2/NES game Metal GearGround Zeroes will serve as a prequel to an eventual Metal Gear Solid 5, according to Konami. Not much is known about the game’s plot just yet, but we do know the following: the main player character will be Big Boss, a.k.a. Naked Snake, the main character of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (the best Metal Gear) and Solid Snake’s biological father; Kazuhira Miller will still serve as Big Boss’ primary informant/mission coordinator; both Big Boss and Miller continue to operate out of Mother Base, the offshore base of operation in Peace Walker, and are still leading the Militaires Sans Frontières; and lastly, we know that the characters Paz and Chico, also from Peace Walker, will play significant roles in the game’s story. Gameplay-wise, we know it’ll be reminiscent of a traditional Metal Gear Solid experience, but with an open-world (separated by loading screens, but complete with a day/night cycle) twist. Additionally, there will also be a base-building feature that allows the player to develop weapons and items from Mother Base.

Like Destiny and the final game on this list, Ground Zeroes will probably be one of those cross-generational games that comes out for both the old and new consoles this Fall. Regardless of whether or not that’s the case, however, it’s sure to be worthy of everyone’s time and attention.

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Watch the debut trailer for Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes here.

Ni no Kuni

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Developer: Level-5 & Studio Ghibli
Platform(s): PlayStation 3
Release Date: January 22

[Author's note: Yes, I realize this game came out two days ago, but I only just got my copy from Amazon today so it's still fair game for me!]

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a Japanese RPG co-developed by Level-5 (Professor Layton, Dark Cloud) and the famed Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli (My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spritied Away). And, well…that’s really all there is to be said on that matter. *drops mic and walks away*

In all seriousness, Ni no Kuni is the type of collaboration that anime and video game fans, like myself, dream of. Developed exclusively for the PlayStation 3, Wrath of the White Witch’s story revolves around thirteen-year-old Oliver, who, early in the game, loses his mother in a tragic accident. A doll, given to Oliver by his mother, is brought to life from his tears and reveals itself to be a male fairy named Drippy, who in turn gives Oliver a book that allows him to use the power of magic and enter the titular world of “Ni no Kuni,” a magical reality parallel to his own. In Ni no Kuni, Drippy claims, Oliver may be able to reunite with his mother again. Using the newfound power of magic, Oliver and Drippy venture to Ni no Kuni, where they befriend magical familiars, as well as Esther, Gyro, and other alternate versions of people and animals Oliver knows from the real-world.

Equal parts whimsical and depressing, fans of Studio Ghibli’s animated films need look no further: Ni no Kuni fits the bill. With a beautiful, cel-shaded art style complimented by that iconic Ghibli aesthetic, and a combat system that plays out like some glorious amalgamation of Namco-Bandai’s Tales series and Gamefreak’s Pokémon, this is one Japanese RPG I’m dying to finally dig into. Look forward to my full written impressions of the title on VGNN sometime in the near future.

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Watch the Special Gift trailer for Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch here.

Pokemon X & Y

Pokémon X & Pokémon Y

Developer: Game Freak
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: October 2013

Developed for the Nintendo 3DS by Game Freak, Pokémon X & Pokémon Y are the first installments in the sixth generation of Nintendo’s immensely popular monster collecting RPG franchise, as well as the first in the main series of games to feature fully polygonal 3D graphics. Both games were revealed during a worldwide announcement by Nintendo president Satoru Iwata earlier this month, where it was also confirmed the titles would be receiving an unprecedented worldwide release in Japan, North America, Europe, and Australia this October.

Yes, as with many games before it, the games will see players in the role of a new Pokémon Trainer who travels across an expansive region, catching creatures known as Pokémon and using them in battle against other trainers. Yes, the games will introduce many new species of Pokémon to collect, including the three new starter monsters (pictured above) that fall into the familiar trichotomy of grass-type, fire-type, and water-type. And yes, the game’s story will probably once again involve the player character competing with a childhood rival, fighting off a corrupt organization that misuse Pokémon for their own selfish and nefarious needs, and collecting 8 gym leader badges in order to ascend to the heights of the region’s Pokémon League, but in spite of all that, I couldn’t be more excited. Yes, the Pokémon series is incredibly formulaic, but it’s a tried-and-true gameplay formula that I still find compelling even after all these years, in no small part thanks to the competitive Pokémon metagame that grows increasingly complex with each subsequent Pokémon generation. Additionally, the allure of X & Y‘s new graphical presentation cannot be denied; the adoption of 3D graphics is a huge development for the series, immediately drawing comparisons with The Legend of Zelda and its jump to 3D with Ocarina of Time.

Like its titular monsters, the mainline Pokémon games are evolving…here’s hoping no one presses B.

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Watch the announcement trailer for Pokémon X & Pokémon Y here.

Shin Megami Tensei IV

Shin Megami Tensei IV 

Developer: Atlus (Maniacs Team)
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Expected Release Date: Late 2013

Not to be confused with a side story or spin-off, Shin Megami Tensei IV is the fourth game in the mainline Shin Megami Tensei series, which last saw a numbered release with 2004′s Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. Developed exclusively for the 3DS, the game is being developed by Atlus’ internal Maniax team and directed by Kazuyuki Yamai, who previously worked on the Maniax edition of Nocturne (which was the version we received here in the States). For the first time in the series, character and demon designs are not being handled by Kazuma Kaneko. Instead, Masayuki Doi, the artist responsible for the Trauma Center games on Wii, is designing the characters, while various artists associated with Tokusatsu media (Kamen Rider) are handling the demons.

Keeping with mainline series tradition, SMT IV‘s story is predominantly set in an utterly desolate, post-apocalypse Tokyo that has been beset by demons. The nameless protagonist and his friends are “Samurai” from Mikado of the East, a neighboring country where its warriors wear gauntlets equipped with a Demon Summoning Program that allows them to combat hostile demons with demons of their own (think Pokémon, but if the Pokémon were modeled off all the mythological gods and creatures from all the world’s religions/folklore, instead). The “Press Turn” combat system from Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga returns, allowing players and enemies alike to take advantage of their opponents’ weaknesses in order to gain extra turns in battle. While players will navigate the fully polygonal 3D environments from a third-person perspective, all combat will be handled from the first-person perspective using high quality sprites for the demons, however. On the plus side, the random encounters that plagued the mainline series in the past are gone, replaced with an enemy encounter system similar to the one found in the Persona spin-off series, where one must willingly engage with an amorphous enemy blob (or in SMT IV‘s case, data stream) in order to initiate battle.

If you find yourself tired of the typical magic ‘n’ swords fantasy fare that predominates the RPG genre, and you’re down for something a little more dark, mature, and challenging, you should join me in looking forward to Shin Megami Tensei IV. Since its inception, the mainline MegaTen franchise has successfully weaved science fiction with elements of the occult, eschewing traditional fantasy conventions, settings, and storytelling in favor of mythology-rich stories centered around the corruptibility of man, Social Darwinism, and the human condition. It’s a terrific series, one that deserves your attention if you’re a fan of the turn-based RPGs! Here’s hoping Atlus USA announce the localization date for this title soon.

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Watch the second official trailer for Shin Megami Tensei IV here.

South Park The Stick of Truth

South Park: The Stick of Truth

Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release date: Q2 2013

While there have been numerous video games (most ill-fitting and terrible) based off the enduring Comedy Central cartoon series, The Stick of Truth seems poised to capture the outrageous R-rated fun of the TV show better than any title before it. Developed by Obsidian Entertainment (Fallout: New Vegas, Alpha Protocol) in collaboration with South Park Digital Studios and series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Park: The Stick of Truth is an upcoming RPG  for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. Not only are Parker and Stone overseeing the development of the game, they’re also penning the script and providing the voices of the characters.

As with the show, the game will take place predominantly within the titular, profanity-laden town of South Park, which has been flawlessly recreated with 2D art the spitting image of the show. The player takes on the role of a (fully customizable) new kid that moves to the town while all its children are caught up in live-action fantasy role-playing. Those familiar with Super Mario RPG or Paper Mario will no doubt realize that the combat system in A Stick of Truth plays homage to those games; turn-based battles that reward players for carefully timed button presses play out in diorama, with one’s party and enemies on opposite sides of the screen.

Simply put, South Park: The Stick of Truth sounds like it was made for me. Not only does it draw inspiration from my favorite episode in the series, The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers, but it’s also in a  genre that I love and from a developer whose games I’ve enjoyed. Hopefully new publisher Ubisoft can nail down an official date for it soon.

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Watch the VGAs 2012 trailer for South Park: The Stick of Truth here.

The Last of Us

The Last of Us

Developer: Naughty Dog
Platform(s): PlayStation 3
Release Date: May 7

Breaking their trend of only doing one franchise per console generation, The Last of Us is the next title from Naughty Dog, the technical wizards at Sony responsible for Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter, and more recently Uncharted. Blending survival horror and actions elements, The Last of Us is a character driven tale about two survivors, Joel, a hardened black-marketeer with a tragic past, and Ellie, a young girl wise beyond her years, and their brutal trek across a post-pandemic United States. It’ll be a journey wrought with abandoned cities and towns reclaimed by nature, untrustworthy scavengers, and Infected, humanoid creatures whose sole aim is to spread the same fungal infection that killed millions, but if it leads them to sanctuary, it’ll no doubt be worth it.

With a personal story reminiscent of Telltale’s The Walking Dead adventure game and a development headed up by Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 2 team, it comes at no surprise to myself that The Last of Us is probably the most anticipated game of 2013 for me. Just the thought of a story even an iota as resonant as last year’s modern horror masterpiece colliding with some of the best motion-capture tech and dialogue writing in the industry has me excited in places I rather not say. I’m also a huge fan of the various gameplay systems in this game, particularly the need to scavenge for supplies and how certain sequences can play out in entirely different ways depending on the player’s approach to combat. I’d be remiss to not mention the allure of the game’s visuals, as well. It’s true: no studio on the planet has mastered the inner machinations of the PlayStation 3 like Naughty Dog has. If anything, this game is sure to be a technological tour de force on par with Uncharted 3, Halo 4, Beyond: Two Souls, and God of War: Ascension for this console generation.

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Watch the story trailer for The Last of Us here.

Watch_Dogs

Watch_Dogs 

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Unannounced Next-Generation Platforms
Release Date: TBD 2013

Unveiled during Ubisoft’s E3 2012 Press Conference last year, Watch_Dogs is an open-world action-adventure game being developed by Ubisoft Montreal, best known for their work on Prince of Persia, Far Cry, and Assassin’s Creed. While the game is being developed with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in mind, according to Ubisoft themselves, the lead platform for the game is the PC, implying ports to unannounced next-generation platforms (i.e. the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720) are likely.

Built around the concepts of information warfare and the world’s increased reliance on technology, Watch_Dogs’ storyline is set in an alternate reality version of Chicago, Illinois, one of many cities all over the world that has its technology and utilities governed by a massive supercomputer known as a “CtOS”. Players assume the role of vigilante anti-hero Aiden Pearce, a highly skilled hacker with the ability to hack into this central operating system in order bend the technology of the city to his will. Players will accomplish this feat in-game with a small device that Aiden can pull out at any time. As demonstrated by the E3 demo, combat in the game will consist of a combination of stealth, parkour, hacking, and cover-based third-person shooter mechanics. The demo also hinted at a possible online cooperative aspect to the title.

Along with Star Wars 1313Watch_Dogs was the talk of the show at E3 2012 last year. The game received numerous accolades from the press, including several “Best of Show” and “Biggest Surprise” awards, and honestly, it’s easy to understand why. If the PC version of Watch_Dogs is representative of what we can expect from next-generation launch titles, then we’re in for a treat, friends.

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Watch the E3 2012 game demo for Watch_Dogs here.

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Finally, let me conclude by mentioning five other known games I’m highly looking forward to, but I believe stand very little chance of actually coming out in North America this year:

(Click the images for a trailer!)

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So, that’s my list!

If nothing else, I hope it got you excited to play at least one upcoming title slated for this year.

If you ask me, if all goes well with the 15 titles listed above, I think it’ll be another banner year for the industry, even if Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen consoles manage to somehow underwhelm. I also feel it’s important to stress that this list makes almost no mention of the ever-growing independent developer scene. For all I know, my Game of the Year could end up being an exceptional title from a relatively small or completely unheard of development team! It wasn’t indie, but I sure as hell never expected Telltale’s The Walking Dead to be my favorite game of 2012 when I wrote a similar list to this one last year. It didn’t even make my Most Anticipated list back then!

We live in exciting times, friends. Thanks to Steam, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and soon, Android-based platforms like Ouya and Game Stick, fun and creative new gaming experiences can emerge from just about anywhere. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings for this industry.

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Feel free to discuss my list, or even share your own Top 5, 10, 13, or 15 Most Anticipated Games of 2013, in the comments below! If you need a comprehensive list of titles scheduled for 2013, click here.



Categories: Lists

4 replies

  1. That was a lame Pokemon joke, Miller. I press B to that.

    • I think I wrote that line around 2AM the night before.

      One finds plenty of things more clever than they actually are around that time!

      (Sorry.)

      • No worries. The excellence of the rest of the article completely annihilates any ill will from lame jokes. That’s seriously the only criticism I could possibly come up with.

        Keep it up, mang~!

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