Hot Games of the Week Reviewed: January 20th

Far Cry Escape Games

Well over a year after the release of the Xbox One and PS4, developers are still bent on resurrecting some of the best games from last generation on newer hardware. Saints Row IV is the latest to get the new-gen remake treatment, relaunching with the Re-Elected subtitle and arriving with fresh, new DLC dubbed Gat Out of Hell.

Another slice of DLC that does a solid job of freshening up its mainline game is Escape from Durgesh Prison, which gives you another reason to fire up Far Cry 4. There’s also a pair of excellent RPGs to try out: Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, to entice 3DS owners, and the downloadable Citizens of Earth — which is out on Nintendo’s and Sony’s latest systems.

Reviews by Phil Villarreal. Phil is an authorblogger and Twitterer. Publishers provided review copies.

Citizens of Earth

Citizens of Earth

(PS4, Vita, Wii , 3DS, $15, Everyone)

An RPG with feel close to Nintendo’s beloved Mother series, with hints of PersonaCitizens of Earth tasks you to scurry around a top-down overworld, recruiting party members to do your bidding in battle. Playing as the nation’s vice president, who returns to his hometown to find everyone has gone berserk, you trade favors with power brokers, hunt down lost items and engage in fights with irate opponents ranging from irate neighbors to your own smothering mom.

Clever, inventive writing permeates every aspect of the game, from the snappy dialogue, down to the naming of characters and items. Recurring gags — a mix of eye-rolling groaners and amusing chuckle-inducers — never grow tired, keeping the story fresh and lively from beginning to end. The 16-bit style graphics recall the golden era of RPGs, and the plot twists and narrative devices play on the nostalgia factor, peppering the experience with playful references. Publisher Atlus is known for sustaining long-running, fan-obsessing series, and Citizens of Earth seems to have the goods to be the next in line to take up the mantle.

Far Cry 4: Escape from Durgesh Prison DLC

(PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, $10, Mature)

A tight, engaging package that filters down many of Far Cry 4‘s excesses to get to the meat of what made the game one of 2014’s best, Escape from Durgesh Prison tells a mid-plot side story that makes you start with nothing and challenges you to emerge as a formidable warrior. Protagonists Ajay and Hurk find themselves imprisoned by the megalomaniacal Pagan Min and stripped of their weapons and abilities. You scrape together resources, build up your attack and defenses, then lead an uprising against enemy forces.

Although some gripe that the DLC is short and not worth the $10 price, there’s much to be said for DLC that adds only what’s necessary to create a fascinating experience, leaving unnecessary distractions and superfluous flourishes aside. The prison-escape story may be cliched, but it’s a well-executed and fulfilling power-grab fantasy here that leaves you wanting more. Those who sprung for the $30 season pass will get just that, with three more add-ons to come. If the quality of this DLC is any indication, there is plenty of fun ahead for Far Cry 4 fans.

Persona Q

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth

(3DS, $50, Mature)

One of 2014’s best-reviewed RPGs is an absolute beast of an RPG that can take more than 100 hours to beat.  The tough-to-find game is well worthy of the commitments of premium time and money — the $50 price tag is one of the highest for 3DS releases — and will probably hook you so bad that you’ll keep on craving more. A blending of the moody high shool social sim/dungeon crawler Persona games and the sprightly, Final Fantasy-mold Etrian Odyssey adventures, Persona Q makes the seemingly incongruous series go together as though the pairing was a natural fit.

The story rounds up characters from Persona 3 and Persona 4, setting them loose in an Etrian Odyssey-flavored world filled with colossal battles and sprawling quests. You juggle a five-member party, selecting your team based on the strengths and weaknesses of their primary and alternate forms. You tangle with minibosses from Etrian Odyssey while juggling your characters’ social aspirations like you do in the Persona games. Even more admirable than the way it combines the best aspects of the two series is the way it disposes of some of the annoying aspects of both. There’s little Persona-style grinding or Etrian Odyssey-style drollness to be found here. The strange, yet oddly appropriate mash-up is one of the high points for Nintendo’s thriving handheld system.

Saints Row 4

 Saints Row IV: Re-Elected and Gat Out of Hell

(PS4, Xbox One, $50, Mature)

One of the strangest games I have played, Saints Row IV was a loving send-off for the Xbox 360/PS3 generation in 2013. Now resurrected for new-gen consoles along with previously released DLC and a new, hell-set expansion the game is primed to steal hours away from longtime rival Grand Theft Auto V just as it did on the older consoles. Although graphics have been given a facelift, they are still rough and simplistic compared to many other open-world titles. Saints Row IV surpasses most of its rivals, though, for its sheer sense of absurd, anything-goes fun.

That sense of wild irreverence cranks up higher than ever in Gat Out of Hell, in which your character — Johnny or Kenzie — is conned into marrying Satan’s daughter. Bent on preserving your freedom, you head out to take over hell and crush the devil just as you did gang members, space aliens and terrorists in the previous Saints Rows. As invigorating as it is to romp through hell, there is much more fun to be had in the main game, in which your overpowered character quickly takes on superhero-like abilities to the point where he can jump over buildings, outrun cars and level crowds with the swing of a fist. One of the guiltiest gaming pleasures from two years ago is back again to wreak its havoc and maintain its chokehold on your system’s disc drive.

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