In the wake of last month's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), a lot of the focus in the gaming industry has been on what's coming up in the next twelve months. With the beginning of a new month, however, the CBR Games Roundup is back to focus on the games you can get your hands on over the next few weeks. July is always a bit slow, and compared to the last few months, there are noticeably fewer games. The good news is that despite the smaller publishing output, there are some major titles hitting, including two highly anticipated sequels, "StarCraft II," and "Crackdown 2."
As always, please remember this list is not inclusive of every title coming out this month, and release dates are subject to change.
Crackdown 2 (XBox 360)
July 6 (xbox.com/Crackdown2) "Crackdown 2" will once again put players in the role of a super-powered cop tasked with cleaning up the streets of Pacific City. In the years that have elapsed since the first game, however, the city's undergone a number of big changes. A plague has been unleashed that mutates the good citizens of Pacific City into hideous freaks that roam the streets at night. During the day, the remaining populace scrounges for resources and a group called the Cell fights against the authority of the Agency.
"Crackdown 2" retains the signature open-world action of the first game, and places more of an emphasis on multiplayer. The main campaign features 4-player online co-op, and there's a full-fledged competitive multiplayer component to the game as well. The collectible power-up orbs that were so popular in the original "Crackdown" are back as well, with one major twist - some of the orbs are mobile, and players will have to chase them down in order to claim them.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable (PSP)
July 6 (www.atlus.com/p3p/) "SMT: Persona 3" was very well received in North America when it arrived in 2007. The portable version of the game was released in Japan last year, and finally makes its way here this month. The story of "SMT: Persona 3" revolves around a group of teenagers who battle evil creatures called Shadows who are preying on humans. The group calls themselves the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad, and during a particular time of night called the Dark Hour, they travel to a mysterious tower to do battle with the Shadows. Like many "SMT" games, a core element of the game is the collecting and combining of creatures (called Personas) that you can use to do battle for you. "SMT: Persona 3" also adds elements of social simulation, and when players are not battling monsters in the middle of the night, they are managing social relationships at the school their character attends. Managing those relationships well gives bonuses to certain types of Personas.
The PSP version of "SMT: Persona 3" will feature a new playable female character, as well as some additional options for gameplay, such as the ability to control all party members during combat and an increased number of difficulty levels.
Tournament of Legends (Wii)
July 6 (sega.com/games/tournament-of-legends) High Voltage Software ("The Conduit") brings their 3D arena-based fighter to the Wii this month. Formerly known as "Gladiator A.D.," the game takes inspiration from the likes of "300" and "Clash of the Titans," pitting warriors and creatures of legend against one another in weapon and magic-based combat. Minotaurs, gorgons and golems are just a few of the fighters that will do battle in arenas inspired by Greek mythology. While the game will feature motion controls with the Wiimote and Nunchuk, it also supports the Classic Controller for those players who want a more traditional fighting game experience.
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Sky (DS)
July 11 (dragonquest.nintendo.com/) Any time a "Dragon Quest" game is released, it's fairly big news, but this particular entry into the series is unique for a couple of reasons. "Dragon Quest IX" is the first game in the series to have been initially released on a handheld console, and its focus on cooperative multiplayer is also a change from the norm. When the game debuted in Japan last year it sold over 2 million copies in its first two days of release.
"Dragon Quest IX" is a turn-based RPG that follows the story of an angel who finds himself in the mortal world after a kingdom of angels is attacked. To complicate matters, fruit from a celestial tree (Goddess Fruit) has also fallen into the mortal world, and those who eat it are possessed and transformed. In order to earn his way back into the kingdom, the angel must enlist the aid of others, battle the possessed mortals and reclaim the Goddess Fruit.
Players will be able to team up and adventure together via four-player wireless co-op in "Dragon Quest IX."
NCAA Football 11 (PS2/PS3/Xbox 360)
July 13 (ncaafootball.easports.com/home.action) The annual installment of EA's college football franchise is arriving this month, and in addition to the usual gameplay tweaks (like a new locomotion engine and a better tackling system), "NCAA 11" will feature a robust online Dynasty Mode. Recruiting players, organizing rosters and even simulating games can be done online. Dynasty mode also features a sports blog that generates stories based on the games that take place in a dynasty league.
A demo of "NCAA 11" is currently available for download on XBox Live and the PlayStation Network.
Arc Rise Fantasia (Wii)
July 20 (arcrisefantasia.com) RPG fans have been waiting for this game to make its way to North America since it debuted in Japan last year. The storyline follows a mercenary named L'arc who is hired to thwart a monster invasion of the Meridian Empire. "Arc Rise Fantasia" features traditional turn-based combat, but a player's entire party shares a pool of points that are spent on different actions in battle. In addition to melee and magic attacks, the game also has a summoning system where players can command powerful creatures called Rogress. The Rogress have specific strengths, and players will have to strategize about which enemies to unleash particular Rogress upon. The campaign for "Arc Rise Fantasia" clocks in at about 60 hours.
TrackMania/TrackMania Turbo (Wii/DS)
July 20 (trackmania.com) One of the most popular and addicting racing games of all time is coming to Nintendo's consoles this month. "TrackMania" allows players to choose between a variety of cars (muscle, rally, etc.), environments and game modes and race against millions of players around the world on crazy tracks that feature jumps, loops, hairpin turns and more. The robust track editor lets players create and share their own tracks. Like its PC parent, the Wii version of "TrackMania" will allow online racing and sharing of tracks.
Some may remember that the DS already has a version of "TrackMania." "TrackMania Turbo" is a step up from the DS original, as it will include online functionality.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift (PS3/Xbox 360)
July 27 (aksysgames.com/blazblue/) This sequel to last year's well-received 2D fighting game is arriving just a year after its predecessor. "Continuum Shift" will feature new characters and modes, and will be a little friendlier for newcomers. The game will feature a new tutorial that will teach new players the basic mechanics along with a beginners' mode that offers a simplified control scheme.
Accessory developer Mad Catz has released limited edition BlazBlue fight sticks, which are being sold through publisher Aksys Games. (aksysgames.com)
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (PC)
July 27 (starcraft2.com) The words "highly anticipated" are a colossal understatement when it comes to "StarCraft II." Since debuting in 1998, the original "StarCraft" has sold millions of copies and is widely recognized as the standard in real time strategy games. As in the original, "StarCraft II" focuses on the interstellar conflict between three species-Terrans (humans), Zerg and Protoss. "Wings of Liberty" will feature a full campaign based on the Terrans, with two subsequent installments centered on the Zerg and Protoss, respectively. "StarCraft" is well-known for its multiplayer, and "StarCraft II" boasts an improved matchmaking system, as well as new tools and features to encourage online play and user-created content. A new marketplace will offer users the ability to sell their created maps to other players provided they meet certain quality requirements.
In April, WildStorm published a collected version of the seven-issue "StarCraft" comic series that dealt with events leading into the storyline in "StarCraft II." The Collector's Edition of "StarCraft II" will include the #0 issue of the comic series.
Another month, another CBR Games Roundup in the books. We'll be back next month with a look at August's releases, which include "Kane and Lynch 2," "Madden 2011" and "Valkyria Chronicles 2." In the meantime, stay tuned to CBR for interviews with the creators and developers of this year's biggest games.