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Top five essential games of February

Jason Evangelho

We break down the essential February must-play games

March 2011 promises to be such a dense month of blockbuster game releases that your bank account will be screaming for mercy and your sleep-deprived body begging for rest. Thankfully you’ll be able to save up that spare cash in February, right? Sorry friend, that couldn’t be further from the truth. March may be the new Christmas in this industry, but the prelude looks tantalizing. We struggled our must-own February releases down to five, trying to filter in something for everyone. The resulting list contains some respectable variety, although RPG fans are the decisive winners.

Marvel vs Capcom 3 | Capcom | February 15

To many, “Marvel vs Capcom” is the holy grail of fighting games (sorry “Virtua Fighter” fans!). For diehard “Street Fighter” fans who also happen to obsess over the Marvel universe, it’s nothing short of digital sex. It’s been 11 years since “Marvel vs. Capcom 2” gave us that intoxicating blend of frantic tag team insanity and perfectly tuned 2D fighting mechanics, and series veterans are foaming at the mouth for Capcom’s next entry. The opening cinematic (above) only magnified the already fever-pitch buzz. Boasting an enormous roster, dazzling eye candy, online multiplayer and even a couple bones for franchise rookies, it’s going to be the definitive fighting game. Unless something goes horribly wrong, “Marvel vs Capcom 3” should satisfy fans for years to come.

“You Don’t Know Jack” | THQ | February 8

If hearing the phrase “Dis or Dat” gets your brain turned on, you probably already know about Jellyvision’s long-awaited current generation entry into the quiz-show scene. “You Don’t Know Jack” was a sensation in the mid to late 90s, turning trivia on its head, giving it an atomic wedge and laughing at it maniacally. It was an outrageous, topical interactive quiz show series with a downright hilarious and snarky host (Cookie Masterson is returning, folks!). Jellyvision, the longtime developers behind the series, are rebooting things for a new generation. If you hate Jeopardy and “Trivial Pursuit” but still enjoy exercising your brain muscles, “You Don’t Know Jack” is for you.

“Hyperdimension Neptunia” | NIS America | February 15

Picture this: A gorgeous turn-based RPG whose name is derived from the scrapped Sega Neptune console, where you summon the likes of freaking Joe Musashi (“Shinobi”) and other classic Sega characters to fight as your guardian angels. Want more? The story line is a biting commentary on the current console war, featuring battles between rival goddesses each representing a console. Oh, it’s also developed by the collectively superior imaginations at Idea Factory, published by NIS America, and is a PS3 exclusive. We assumed it would be too niche for NIS to bring to North American shores, but thankfully we were wrong. If for some bizarre reason you don’t want this game, please turn in your gaming license before closing this browser window.

“Bulletstorm” | EPIC | February 22

So, a little game called “Killzone 3” also drops onto store shelves February 22. What game would have the audacity to compete against such a competition-devouring FPS? “Bulletstorm” would. Developed by the warped minds at People Can Fly, “Bulletstorm” is injecting the FPS genre with some sorely needed creativity. Last week, a paltry five minute demo practically restored my faith in shooters and ushered in the kind of FPS addiction I haven’t felt since “Half-Life.” Does Killzone 3 have stunning graphics that could force even iD Software to pack up shop? Definitely. Does it boast cutting edge 3D technology and play like a dream? Sure! Does it let you launch enemies skyward with an electrified leash, juggle them with a double-barrel shotgun and dismember them in mid-air? Exactly. Bulletstorm makes the list for its originality, style and most importantly severe dose of fun.

“Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together” | Square-Enix | February 15

With the exception of the excellent Disgaea series, “Tactics Ogre” is one of the most respected and beloved Strategy RPG titles in history. In fact, it’s been voted “Top 20 games” by readers of Japanese magazine Famitsu for 14 years straight. Neither a remake nor a reboot, “Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together” is more accurately defined as a “reinvention” and features a Square-Enix dream team (Hiroshi Minagawa, Akihiko Yoshida, Yasumi Matsuno, Hitoshi Sakimoto to name a few) envisioning what the original SNES entry from 1995 would be like if developed and played now. Sold!

What will you be picking up in February?

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