I’ve always been a fan of weird and niche Japanese games, and I love alerting people to interesting titles that they may overlook. Therefore, I scoured the E3 show floor for the hidden gems amongst all the chaos. These are ones you should keep an eye on.
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (PlayStation Vita)
The killer bear is back! February’s Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc took fans by surprise with its quirky characters and twisted premise. Students were locked in a school with only one way out: murder. This September, we’re receiving a sequel, Goodbye Despair. The ending of the first game left plenty of unanswered questions, so seeing how the sequel handles them should be interesting. Goodbye Despair also offers a completely new venue: a tropical island featuring a new cast. Expect some returning members though, like Byakuya, who’s put on more than a few pounds. Goodbye Despair appears to have a lot of what we loved in the first game, but also refined many elements along with adding new mingames.
Story of Seasons (Nintendo 3DS)
Get ready to farm your heart out. Story of Seasons might just be the best game in the Bokuj? Monogatari series yet. During our time with the farming and life sim, we noticed some framerate issues, but outside of that, everything moves more quickly than previous entries. You no longer have to take every crop out bit-by-bit; in one fell swoop, you can grab nine squares of produce at once. This entry has the most livestock yet, even featuring exotic animals and a safari mode to see them all. This time around, other farmers also are around to compete with or befriend. Relationship-building is still a staple, and plenty of colorful and varied NPCs exist, from a rich girl who despises farming to one who will help you at all costs. A trading center allows you to fulfill villager demands, instead of merely throwing your crops into a shipping box and calling it a day. This entry won’t turn the series on its head, but it does refine enough to give fans another reason to till lands and make friends.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Persona 4 Arena made its mark as a solid fighter with a heavy narrative focus. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is its follow-up, and it’s bringing plenty of beloved new Persona fighters to the ring. Watch the hilarious Junpei try not to strike out with his bat as a weapon, see Rise embark on a rhythm minigame to unleash her special, and experience how Ken benefits from teaming up with the adorable dog, Koromaru. The story continues what was started in Persona 4 Arena with the Midnight Channel back to wreak more havoc for our heroes. The fighting plays out similar to the first game, but plenty of little tweaks along with new specials keep things fresh. I had a blast playing some matches with the new fighters, and I can’t wait to see how the characters interact in the story mode.
Akiba’s Trip Undead and Undressed (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita)
Akiba’s Trip is all kinds of zany. You explore Akihabara, a Tokyo district that is like Japan’s love letter to all things video game and anime related. However this is Akihabara with a twist — vampires have taken over, and it’s up to you to stop them by hitting them with hilarious weapons like manga and model rockets. That’s hardly the silliest part though; in this beat ‘em up, you must strip these vampires of their shirts and pants to further expose them to the sunlight. Akiba’s Trip doesn’t take itself seriously, and that’s part of its charm. So far, its Akihabara setting and bizarre antics have me intrigued.
For more information on Akiba’s Trip, check out our impressions from the show.
Natural Doctrine (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita)
NIS America describes Natural Doctrine as “XCOM meets Darks Souls.” This hardcore strategy/RPG is not for the faint of heart. As you venture through caves to collect a precious material called Pluton, you find greater threats lurking that you must stop. You have tons of ways to strategize via grid placement. You can link up attacks to deal more damage, or sacrifice a turn to interrupt an enemy’s. Things are tense; if one combatant dies, it’s game over. However, later in the game you can lose some characters permanently, and their deaths factor into the ending. Skills aren’t permanent for characters, and you can change them depending on the situation. Combatants can also learn abilities from other characters. Natural Doctrine puts a lot of experimentation in your hands to measure up to the hard challenge. The game supports co-op and versus multiplayer, so the journey is hardly over once you master the main campaign.
Tales of Xillia 2 (PlayStation 3)
The original Tales of Xillia reminded me why I fell in love with RPGs in the first place. Tales of Xillia 2 picks up a year later after the events of Tales of Xillia. The game features two new protagonists, Ludger and Elle, but also has you fighting alongside the gang from the first game. Xillia 2 even includes optional chapters to see what the old cast has been up in the year gap between games. Bandai Namco took fan feedback into account when creating the battle system, combining what fans liked, such as the link system, while adding new elements like the ability to swap weapons mid-battle and a powerful transforming ability. Fans who love the relationship-building also have more to anticipate. This entry has more opportunities to unlock unique content with certain characters based on your choices during the game. Seeing the old and new characters unite along with all the enhancements should be a great trip for Xillia fans.
For more information on Tales of Xillia 2, check out our impressions from the show.