5 Underplayed Games From 2013 To Get You Through The Summer Drought

ni no kuni 0 5 Underplayed Games From 2013 To Get You Through The Summer Drought

Though the industry has been swept up by the hype surrounding the next-gen consoles of late, 2013 has proven to be a remarkable year for video game releases thus far. From atmospheric and intense adventures to first-person shooters that challenge the conventions of their genre, the past six months have served up some truly memorable experiences that will in time act as a fitting send off for our current-gen systems. With the month of March heralding a bold reinvention of Tomb Raider and the third; and arguably greatest entry for the Bioshock franchise in Infinite. Not to mention further iterations for God of War and Gears of War. As such, we were spoiled for triple-A choice.

Of course, this slew of great games was finite by nature and once we entered June, the industry began to retreat from the looming shadow of the summer blockbuster. This retreat was typified on June 14th, which itself was an interesting date on two levels. First, it marked Superman’s mighty return to the cinema screen with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, which irrefutably established the tentpole season of movies. And secondly, the 14th of June witnessed the release of The Last of Us. Hailed as a masterpiece, Naughty Dog’s stunning creation is the final sizable release of Q1 2013 and one that will undoubtedly resonate with many gamers for a very long time.

Still, the industry’s conveyor belt may have slowed, but it hasn’t stopped. Grand Theft Auto V will act as light at the end of the tunnel for much of the community when it hits stores on September 17th. While releases such as Tales of Xilia, Saints Row IV, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Dragon’s Crown, Killzone: Mercenary and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified will all individually compete for your hard earned cash in August. But what about those games from 2013 that slipped your radar? Beneath the triple-A maelstrom of Q1 and Q2 exists a series of fine and worthy titles that are more than capable of filling the time between now and August.

So now that we’ve entered the second half of 2013 and gaming’s annual summer drought has taken effect – mind you, it’s a lot less severe than previous years – here’s a list of 5 titles you may have missed over the last six months and why they absolutely deserve your time.

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1) Ni No Kuni: Wrath of The White Witch

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Developer: Level-5 & Studio Ghibli
Genre: Japanese Role-Playing
Release Date: US – January 22nd, 2013/EU – February 1st, 2013
Available For: Playstation 3/Nintendo DS

There’s a fine line that divides the traditional RPG and the JRPG. Firstly, the former tends to focus more on its surrounding environment and is inclined to be western-centric by design – such as The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim or Fallout – whereas the latter strives for a fundamentally character driven story. It’s a trope that has defined series such as Final Fantasy or the Persona games over the years, and one that typifies the emotional depth offered by Level-5’s Playstation 3 exclusive; Ni No Kuni: Wrath of The White Witch.

While a small-scaled DS version was released back in 2010, it wasn’t until the following year that Ni No Kuni came to Playstation 3 in Japan, with the eventual western release arriving in early 2013. Mind you, it was worth the wait. Hosting the familiar milieu that JRPGs are famous for – dungeons, eccentric NPC’s and a plethora of towns and side-quests – the game charts the adventure of the lovable Oliver, as he embarks on an odyssey from his hometown of Motorville. This is a game that is defined by a unique protagonist, and the young Oliver; with a wise-beyond-his-years demeanour, is a character straight out of Studio Ghibli’s signature DNA. Having co-produced the game, the film studio brings a degree of quality to Ni No Kuni that sets it apart from its role-playing counterparts, and that idiosyncratic archetype of a young, curious child exploring a rich and vibrant world is what makes Ni No Kuni so downright compelling.

Level 5’s entry into the genre may be aesthetically gorgeous, but don’t let Ni No Kuni’s charming animation fool you. This is an old school JRPG at its core and places an emphasis on level grinding as you explore the game’s dual worlds. Also, the game borrows from the Pokémon series in the way it allows player to capture familiars along the journey and train them as battle companions. Even if you’re often intimated by the expansive depth offered by the typical RPG, Ni No Kuni offers engaging gameplay with a well-written and powerful narrative that will suitably put the hours in between now and September…and then some.

Try if you liked: Kingdom Hearts, Pokémon.
Current Price: $35/£22

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2) Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

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Developer: Next Level Games & Nintendo
Genre: Action Adventure
Release Date: March 24th, 2013
Available For: Nintendo 3DS

Luigi took his first step away from the stifling shadow of his more famous brother in 2001, a year which heralded the release of his first game in a lead role with Luigi’s Mansion. The lesser known Mario brother stole the spotlight with Nintendo’s self-published action-adventure romp that balanced spooky and quirky with expertise. In telling the game’s story through Luigi’s timid eyes – which were often covered by his hands in fear – the company were able to create a gameplay experience that was brimming with personality, and it’s a formula that Nintendo have honed brilliantly with the Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon.

Much like the original, Professor E. Gadd tasks our beloved plumber-in-green with capturing ghosts within an old, creaking abode. For Dark Moon, however, players will dust off their Poltergust 5000 in order to recover the pieces of the titular magic object hidden within five individual and environmentally unique mansions. To restore Evershade Valley to a state of harmony, Luigi must find these scattered remnants and go up against King Boo, who acts as the game’s chief villain. Ultimately, though, its Luigi’s hapless and cowardly persona that makes Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon so charming. From the perfectly executed character animations to his nervous humming, our reluctant hero has never been so entertaining.

What’s more, the addition of multiplayer lends a degree of replayability to Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and the game’s 2-to-4 player online component never feels shoehorned in. The co-operative play is entitled ScareScraper – or ThrillTower for European and Australian 3DS owners – and is compatible via both local and online play.

If a console experience isn’t what you’re looking for, then Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is the perfect handheld title to pass the time on a summer commute.

Try if you liked: Super Mario 3D Land, Maniac Mansion.
Current Price: $30/£30

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3) Guacamelee!

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Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Genre: 2D Platformer
Release Date: April 9th, 2013
Available For: Playstation 3/Playstation Vita (Cross-buy)

2D Metroidvania platformers are a genre that has extrapolated since the rise of mobile gaming. It seems as though you can run, jump and beat-‘em-up on almost every platform, and as a result, they’ve become rather trite by their sheer abundance. So when Drinkbox Studios revealed Guacamelee – a two dimensional platformer by design – back in April, you can understand why the game didn’t exactly fly off the digital shelves upon release. Nevertheless, Guacamelee is an absolute must-have for Playstation owners.

Drinkbox Studios’ colourful and surprisingly complex title is a true indie darling that can stand alongside the PSN’s other greats proudly such as Journey and The Unfinished Swan. Infused with a comedic Mexican theme, Guacamelee is an homage to past Metroidvania games – particularly Castlevania – while still cementing its own sombrero-shaped stamp on the age-old genre. In terms of story, the game follows Juan, a muscular agave farmer who, after donning the powerful Luchadore’s wrestling mask, fights to rescue the daughter of El Presidente from the villainous bandit, Carlos Calaca. Though this arc may sound rather formulaic, its Guacamelee’s witty and amusing written dialogue that saves it from the jaws of cliché.

Though you may be able to run through the game in 6 to 7 hours, Guacamelee is expertly designed. Moreover, with a series of side-quests and the addition of new game plus, this is a 2D platformer that stands head and burly shoulders above the rest courtesy of its excellent fighting mechanics and intriguing, often hilarious world.

Try if you liked: Fez, Metroid Prime.
Current price: $14.99/£7.99 (On sale for UK & Europe until July 17th)

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4) Metro: Last Light

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Developer: 4A Games
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release Date: May 14th, 2013
Available For: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Though Metro: Last Light was originally slated for release in 2012, 4A Game’s first-person shooter was a casualty of THQ’s closure earlier this year which resulted in the game being pushed to May of 2013. Published by Deep Silver, the game is a follow-up to Metro 2033 – which itself was based on the eponymous novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky. Straddling the line between action-adventure and horror, Metro: Last Light inhabits a dark and terrifying post-apocalyptic Russia twenty years after a colossal nuclear war wherein the remnants of society seek refuge in Moscow’s sprawling metro system.

4A Game’s creation is nothing if not atmospheric. The majority of Metro: Last Light takes place in the city’s subterranean setting, and the way in which the game evokes an eerie feel of claustrophobia is a testimony to the granular detail that the studio have forged into the game’s sinister environments. Just like its 2010 predecessor, players will take up arms as Artyom, a world-weary solider with a peculiar connection to the unearthly Dark Ones – a deformed group of humanoids that serve as the franchise’s overarching antagonists. Thought to be extinct after the events of Metro 2033 and the D6 missile strike, the Dark Ones return in the sequel, forcing Artyom to collaborate with his partner Anna in order to investigate the aliens’ motivation.

Where the first game was criticised for its shonky and frustrating shooting mechanics – in fact, it was the gameplay that failed the intriguing story – Metro: Last Light has refined the gameplay experience. What’s more, the studio have implemented Call of Duty-esque customisation options to the game’s weaponry – such as red dot sights and night vision scopes – which will aid in your battle against the communist Red armies and Nazi Reich.

For a lengthy campaign that, unlike its genre affiliates, boasts a riveting story, Metro: Last Light is well worth your time. Additionally, if you do pick up the game, switch to Russian dialogue with English subtitles for that added degree of immersion.

Try if you liked: F.E.A.R., S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
Current Price: $49.99/£30

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5) Fire Emblem Awakening


fire 3 5 Underplayed Games From 2013 To Get You Through The Summer Drought

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Genre: Tactical RPG
Release Date: U.S. – February 4th/E.U. – April 19th
Available For: Nintendo 3DS

Few gaming franchises come close to matching the phenomenal and resounding success of the Fire Emblem series. Spanning thirteen years and seven home consoles, the Japanese RPG has truly carved out its own genre in terms of tactical strategy. With a very eastern sensibility lurking in its DNA, the series has gone to bring turn-based strategy to the masses, and with Fire Emblem Awakening – the thirteenth entry into the franchise – Intelligent Systems have created the perfect window into the Fire Emblem franchise for newcomers without sacrificing the essence of the mythology.

Having been available for Japan since 2012, it was only in February of this year that the game was localised and made available for a western 3DS audience. I’m going to level with you, though, up until Awakening, Fire Emblem had always existed in my mind as a complex and rather intimidating JRPG. Other than, say, Marth and Roy’s appearances in Super Smash Bros., I had no tangible investment in the series, so it’s a testimony to the studio that the latest instalment captured my attention almost immediately.

Orbiting around Chrom, the prince of the Halidom of Ylisse, players must quell the threat of the Risen – an unholy group that threaten the world’s resounding peace. The intricate detail on display in the game’s mechanics and the wealth of customisation options allow you to create a truly memorable character, which subsequently makes the battles so tense given the ever-present threat of permadeath as you gaze worryingly over your characters from the game’s top-down perspective.

There are a handful of games that justify buying a 3DS, and Intelligent System’s Fire Emblem Awakening; with its 50+ hour campaign, is absolutely one of those titles.

Try if you liked: Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy Tactics.
Current Price: $40/£32

Which of these games peak your interest? Have you played any of these titles since their release? As always, let us know in the comments below.

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