Dragon's Crown Screenshot

It's been a while since I updated, so let me start things off by sharing a couple of links in case you missed them:

First, here's my take on Dragon's Crown for PS3/Vita, which you may have heard about thanks to the brouhaha surrounding the hyper-sexualized art style. Personally, I thought it looked great, although everyone has their own preferences. However, it's an incredible game regardless of what it looks like, and it's probably the best beat-'em-up that's ever been made.

Next, here's my take on Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale for 3DS. It's quirky, cute, and really different. It wasn't totally satisfying, but I liked it all the same, and would recommend it for those players looking for something a little off the beaten path.

My last link tonight is my review of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons for XBLA. Much like Friday Monsters! it's a very unconventional experience, but it's also one of the most soulful games I've played this year. This story about two brothers trying to save their father is beautiful, magical, wondrous, dark, and at times very real. I wouldn't blame you for overlooking it thanks to the miserable PR job Microsoft is doing, but anyone interested in narrative, emotion, and unconventional game design should absolutely check it out.

So, since the stuff I just linked to is already in the can, you may be wondering what I'm up to now. It's still currently under embargo so I can't share many details, but I can say that I've been spending time with Saints Row IV and it's been something of a revelation.

I came to the Saints Row series about two years after the first game came out back in 2006, and I genuinely liked it quite a bit. Although it was pretty clearly a slightly different take on Grand Theft Auto mechanically, the sense of humor and irreverence were fantastic and the game just flat-out controlled a hell of a lot better than anything Rockstar had managed to turn out.

I hit Saints Row 2 as soon as that released, and it was essentially a good example of how "bigger, better, more" is a valid development strategy for certain titles. On the other hand, the format was starting to feel a bit stale by this point, and I was a little disappointed that it wasn't fresher. Still, a good game.

Then came Saints Row 3, and I've got to be perfectly honest here—it was a pile of garbage.

I know a lot of people say that they had a great time with it and I don't dispute that, but I also think that most of the people who enjoyed it are people who had never played the previous games. If this was the first exposure someone had to the Saints franchise, then it makes perfect sense that it would be a lot of crazy fun. But, as someone who had played both of the previous games, it felt like a hot mess with its absolutely atrocious writing, nonsensical missions, and terrible pacing. I'm pretty sure the studio was going through some difficulties at the time and I can understand that, but the fact is that the game is just not very good.

After having seen what a sloppy train wreck Saints Row 3 turned out to be, I was extremely leery of all the build-up and hype that was surrounding Saints Row IV. Honestly, I expected to put 2 hours into it and then call it good, but then something amazing happened—the game turned out to be genuinely, shockingly fantastic.

Like I said, it's still under embargo so I can't spill the beans here, but I can say that the developers have corrected all of the problems that I had with the last game and then took the entire formula and shook it up from top to bottom. It's different, it's totally fresh, it's full of surprises, it's fun and exciting… This is one of the biggest turnarounds for a sagging series that I think I've ever seen.

I'm about 12 hours through the game right now, and the entire experience has been an absolute blast. It's kind of a shame that PR for the game hasn't really told the true story of what's going on here, but then again, walking into some of this stuff without knowing it was coming just makes it that much better.

If you're tired of the GTA/SR formula or you're just tired of open-world games in general, I would still encourage you to at least check out the game once it hits—and you fans of Crackdown? You're gonna be in heaven.

Brad Gallaway
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