If July was any indication, the summer months are no longer the lull they used to be. This month is no different –– right from the start all the way through the end, August is chock full of quality titles that should be on every niche gaming fan’s list. While the biggest releases are inarguably Persona 4 Arena, Guild Wars 2, and the highly-anticipated Wii JRPG The Last Story (sorry, we jumped the gun on that one – it was featured on our July Best of Niche list), that doesn’t make the likes of Sound Shapes, Papo Yo, and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure HD any less exciting.
Read on to find out why you should have these games on your radar, and share your own top picks in the comments!
Persona 4 Arena | Arc System Works | August 7th
The idea behind Persona 4 Arena is, without a doubt, a match made in heaven. Combine Arc System Works, the developer of the acclaimed BlazBlue series, and Atlus, the folks behind Persona 3 and Persona 4, two of the best JRPGs of the PlayStation 2 era, and you’ve got the ingredients to make one of the most hyped fighters in recent memory. The game has already seen much fanfare in Japanese arcades, attracting both traditional fighting fans and Persona fans alike for its sleek graphics, stellar rooster, and addictive gameplay. Now, home console owners will be able to enjoy a number of perks with its international release, including an in-depth tutorial for fighting game newbs and a whopping 30+ hour story mode that continues where Persona 4 left off. Despite the controversy over it being the first PS3 title to be region-locked, Persona 4 Arena is not to be missed.
Sound Shapes | Queasy Games, SCE Santa Monica Studio | August 7th
Sound Shapes, the first indie title from the PSN PLAY program on our list, is a side-scrolling platformer with a musical focus. Collecting notes within the levels will add beats to the music, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “playing music” as players make their way through the game’s 5 different albums, all featuring tracks from a variety of famous musicians such as Beck, Jim Gutherie, and deadmau5. Clearing these levels will unlock different elements that can be used in the level creator, much like LittleBigPlanet, encouraging a vast player-driven community filled with countless types of levels. Players will receive both the PS Vita and PS3 versions of the game with their purchase, and all progress can be transferred between the two via cloud saves, making it a great pick for music and platformer fans alike.
Papo Yo | Minority | August 14th
Papo Yo shouldn’t be overlooked just because it follows Sound Shapes on the PSN PLAY release schedule. One reason it stands out amongst the recent surge of quality indie titles is the developers have been very open about the fact that the relationship between the boy Quico and his best friend Monster (who’s literally a monster) is based on the creator’s own relationship with his alcoholic father. Monster has an addiction to poisonous frogs that make him violently angry whenever he eats them, and it’s up to Quico to find a cure. The game revolves around Quico searching for a cure with his companion, but he must learn to use Monster’s various abilities, including those that rise out of his anger, to solve a variety of puzzles. The unique setting, subject matter, and puzzle-based gameplay set Papo Yo up to be a memorable experience on multiple levels.
Journey Collector’s Edition | thatgamecompany | August 28th
Journey, the most recent title from highly-acclaimed indie developer thatgamecompany, blew many a mind when it was released on the PSN back in March. In fact, it may be on more than one GotY 2012 list when the year comes to a close, as it pushes the boundaries of games as art with its cohesive vision, beautiful art style, emotive soundtrack, and innovative approach to online play.
The Journey Collector’s Edition marks the first time a thatgamecompany title has received a physical release, but that’s not the only reason why the collection is exciting; not only does it include Journey, but thatgamecompany’s Flower and flOw, as well. In addition, the package includes a whole slew of extra content, including three mini games developed by thatgamecompany during the 24hr Game Jam, complete soundtracks for Journey, Flower, and flOw, a 30-minute documentary on the making of Journey, creator commentary for all three titles, and a whole lot more. It’s without a doubt the definitive version of Journey and a must-buy for anyone interested in games as art.
Guild Wars 2 | AreaNet | August 28th
“Guild Wars 2? That’s not a niche game!” you say? Well, it may be a bit of a stretch of the imagination to call it niche, considering the massive popularity Guild Wars held for many years, but with the state of MMO’s being as they are, Guild Wars 2 may be more niche than meets the eye. Though Guild Wars 2 will continue with the no monthly fee tradition of its predecessor, it seeks to shake things up for the MMO genre in a variety of ways. Most notably, the game features a new approach to combat: instead of simply clicking an enemy and watching as your character slowly hacks away at their health bar, combat is much more dynamic, requiring multiple timed button presses and the ability to interact with a true 3D environment by fluidly integrating combat with various types of movement such as running and jumping. The way players look at skill advancement and questing will change, as well, ensuring Guild Wars 2 is the fresh MMO experience those jaded with the genre have been looking for. It may even prove to be a worthy entry point into the world of MMO’s for those who have yet to make the dive.