Even though the gaming industries are hitting the summer doldrums, there are still a few gems out there vying for your attention. There’s “Valiant Hearts: The Great War,” a beautiful, indie-style epic, as well as two beefed-up versions of already amazing games. “Guacamelee” goes big with its “Super Turbo Championship Edition” and what was once known as “Street Fighter IV” gets its umpteenth major upgrade and rerelease with “Ultra Street Fighter IV.”
Guacamelee Super Turbo Championship Edition
(PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, $15, Everyone 10+)
The luchador-themed, Metroidvania-style brawler gets more than a snazzy new leotard and fresh coat of face paint as it saunters into the current-gen ring. The new download includes all the DLC released since Guacamelee came out more than a year ago, as well as new levels, move sets, enemies and bosses. There are also permanent item unlocks, as well as multiple save files, both of which should have been there from the start.
Rereleases are sometimes stuffed with padded bloat and deleted levels that were left out of the original game for a reason, but that’s not the case here. All the new stuff improves the starting product, emphasizing its subversive, Nacho Libre-style humor, varying up combat and playstyles and making the game more replayable. It’s a great time to unleash strings of creative combos, smacking around enemies with joyful abandon. There’s enough of a difference to the rerelease to justify another go-round to spice up Guacamelee for another go-round.
Ultra Street Fighter IV
(Xbox 360, PS3, $15 (DLC) $40 (retail), Teen)
Back in 2009, Street Fighter IV reignited the fight game scene by replicating the feel of Street Fighter II‘s arcade flair and balance while creating then-cutting edge modern standards in graphics, controls and move sets. Every year or so brought another update, with Super Street Fighter IV and its following Arcade Edition being the most notable, each piling on more characters, moves and combo dynamics. Ultra Street Fighter IV, which is available for $40 at retail or as a $15 add-on to Arcade Editon, brings that evolution to its inevitable conclusion. This is the best version of the game fighter fanatics have been obsessing over for the past half decade.
Five new characters, six stages, rebalanced gameplay and all previously-released downloadable costumes. There’s also co-op online play in team battles, an online training mode and a “red focus” mode that lets you use your super combo meter for a brief period of combo-breaking invulnerability. You can also play as versions of characters from previous editions. If you’ve grown sick of Street Fighter IV and its progeny, there’s nothing here from you. But if you’re into the fighter, you’ll want to spring for this because whatever version you’ve got is now severely obsolete. Step carefully, though. Don’t be shocked if Capcom comes calling to shake you down yet again for a current-gen version.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War
(PS4, Xbox One, PS3, 360, $15, Teen)
While the industry has worn out World War II as a setting, it’s neglected World War I. The elegant, gorgeous and thoughtful puzzle-platformer Valiant Hearts: The Great War mines the conflict for an engrossing tale of several interlinked characters. As the brutal, inhumane conflict explodes, you help the protagonists survive, seek out family members and bond with one another.
In the style of adventure games, you figure out ways to access items lying around in plain view, then use them to fill character’s needs, allowing them to help you fulfill your next goal. There’s also a hefty educational aspect, with each chapter unlocking diaries and fact sheets that spell out mind-blowing details about the realities the people of the era had to deal with. For instance, you’ll learn that a Canadian regiment had to cover their mouths with urine-soaked cloths to protect themselves from gas attacks, then guide the characters through a level filled with dangers brought on by the gas. A beautiful and heartbreaking experience, Valiant Hearts sticks with you long after you finish.