Weekly video game releases: 'Dante's Inferno', 'Endless Ocean 2', 'Star Trek Online'

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The Independent Tech

Among upcoming video game releases: going to hell and back with Dante's Inferno, relaxed scuba exploration with Endless Ocean 2, and one of science fiction's top-tier titles in Star Trek Online.

Dante's Inferno (360, PS3, PSP)
Release: Europe, February 5. North America, February 9.
Dante's Inferno is, as one would expect, inspired by the first part of Dante Aligheri's 14th century Divine Comedy trilogy. Gameplay appears to have been lifted wholesale from the God of War series, not necessarily a bad thing in itself, owing far more to that PlayStation exclusive than to Aligheri's pensive meditation on the nature of wrongdoing and forgiveness. For this reason it is likely to interest a good number of Xbox 360 owners, while PlayStation 3 users will have half an eye on the mid-March release of God of War III. An animated film is out on Blu-Ray / DVD, a republished tie-in version of Aligheri's epic is to be made available, and there are special editions of the game that contain in-game bonuses, behind-the-scenes documentaries, soundtracks and other trinkets.
Price: €69 / $59 (360 PS3), €39 / $39 (PSP)
Divine Edition: $59.99 (360 PS3)
Death Edition: €79.99 (360 PS3)
Animated film: €17.99 / $24.99 DVD, €23.99 / $34.99 Blu-Ray
Book: Dante's Inferno by Dante (Translated by Henry Longfellow), Del Rey Books, €10 / $13

Endless Ocean 2: Adventures of the Deep (Wii)
( Endless Ocean: Deep Blue in North America)
Release: Europe, February 5. North America, February 22.
Since Endless Ocean first appeared on the Wii in 2008, virtual aquariums and fish-featuring games have been met with massive popular demand on Facebook so it seems that Endless Ocean 2 could not have arrived at a better time. The original's relaxed ocean exploration, fish collection, marine biology, and animal mythology make a return, this time spread over six different global locations. Graphics are improved, and there's a greater variety of tasks, mysteries, and animals to pursue. Undersea treasures can be bought and sold, and co-operative online play returns so that players can dive with friends as well as dolphins. Japanese magazine Famitsu's four reviewers each gave it a 9/10 when it was released there, so it seems that EO2 has something for both casual and involved gamers alike.
Price: €29.99 / $29.99

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat (PC)
Release: North America, February 2. Europe, February 5.
Call of Pripyat is a sequel to the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl game, inspired by the Russian novel Roadside Picnic and Tarkovsky's 1979 film Stalker. Upon release in March 2007 it raked in a whole host of rave reviews, especially noted for its unique atmosphere as players scavenged a deserted landscape for unusual artifacts - deserted apart from aggressive inhabitants who have been drenched in radioactivity of uncertain origin. That was not only followed by the 2008 prequel Clear Sky but also a slew of fan-made graphical modifications that added an extra layer of graphical wonder. Call of Pripyat may not reach the heights of Shadow, but it does continue the story using the real-lfe location of Chernobyl-ravaged Pripyat and its surrounds. The tin-case special edition includes an ornamental map, sew-on patches, a bandana and a pocket lighter.
Price: $39.99 / €29.99
Special Edition: €39.99

Star Trek Online (PC)
Release: North America, February 2. Europe, February 5.
Cryptic Studios have a strong pedigree with previous online outings such as Champions Online. Here, nine Star Trek humanoid races are available from the off, space flight is part of the deal, notable storylines are referenced, and of course there are phasers, holograms, and teleportation. There is a free open beta that runs until January 26, available from StarTrekOnline.com for those who want to try it out. Like many online role-players, there is a standard monthly subscription fee of $15 / €13. Subscriptions of up to six months available, and those that pre-order prior to February 2 are eligible for limited-availablility year-long subscriptions, saving $60 (~€52), and a lifetime subscription tier. At a hefty $240 (~€210) it represents quite an investment but for those who are intending to sink some serious time into STO, it's a consideration.
Price: €49.99 / $49.99
Special Edition: €59.99 / $79.99

White Knight Chronicles: International Edition (PS3)
Release: North America, February 2.
Sony will be hoping that White Knight Chronicles does a " Demon's Souls" by making it big outside of its original Japanese market. Alert to the fact that the December 2008 game was generating significant interest from North America and Europe, a North American conversion was commissioned and a European language one is to follow, enabling non-Japanese speakers to experience the adventures of a young lad who is magically transformed into a knight in order to save his princess by doing battle with mages and monsters. Gameplay-wise, WKC looks very much like a Monster Hunter for the PlayStation 3, with a variety of quests and foes, and friends teaming up for online multiplayer fun.
Price: $59.99

BioShock 2 (360, PC, PS3)
Release: North America & Europe, February 9. Japan, March 31.
Following on from the success of the first BioShock game and story-wise being cast as a prequel, BioShock 2 is an atmospheric exploration game from the point of view of a prototype human-robot hybrid encased in a 1950s-style armored diving suit, all in an underwater dystopia. Intrigued? Well, in addition to picking up a host of awards in North America and Europe, the original BioShock went down so well in Japan that this one is getting an unusually early translation and release to arrive just a few weeks after its North American and European release. Early reviews indicate that BioShock 2 offers an excellent and singular experience. The Collectors Edition includes a 12" vinyl soundtrack LP, soundtrack CD, three posters, and an art book.
Price: $59.99 / €59.99 (360 PS3), $49.99 / €49.99 (PC)
Collectors Edition: $99.99 / €79.99 (360 PS3), $89.99 / €69.99 (PC)

Shiren the Wanderer (Wii)
Release: North America, February 9.
This conversion of the Japanese Wii game Furai no Shiren 3 has been described by the game's publisher as having story-driven gameplay. The Japanese subtitle tells us that it's about a sleeping princess in a clockwork palace. So far, so Mario? Well, in terms of plot archetypes, perhaps, but Shiren's reputation is that of a challenging dungeon-crawler, putting plucky warrior Shiren up against all kinds of monsters and beasties. The developers were at the helm for the first five Dragon Quest adventure games and three of the Pokémon series which are decent references for the mechanics of Shiren, and in terms of quality, Japanese reviewers at Famitsu magazine game it an overall 35/40 score.
Price: $39.99

Star Ocean: The Last Hope International (PS3)
Release: North America, February 9. Europe, February 12.
That this space-themed role-playing game has been an Xbox 360 exclusive since February 2007 was a little surprising, given that Sony aficionandos had grown used to Star Ocean games being a perk of PlayStation gaming, and now they too can play through the last in the highly rated series. New content has been promised for this edition, though the exact nature of those extras have not yet been fully disclosed. Of the Xbox 360 version, Destructoid described it as being a well crafted adventure, and Thunderbolt viewed it as a fitting swan song to the great Star Ocean series, though the review site The Onion AV Club among others took issue with the length of the cut scenes and some other gameplay aspects.
Price: €59.99 / $59.99

Super Monkey Ball: Step & Roll (Wii)
Release: North America, February 9. Europe, February 12.
The followup to Banana Blitz, Super Monkey Ball's first appearance on the Wii, has been re-jigged to work with the Wii Balance Board, an accessory that has found a place in many homes thanks to the success of Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus. Players can tilt and lean to guide their monkey-in-a-ball around courses and puzzles, though of course the game also accepts standard Wii Remotes. The Wii has become famous for a plethora of titles which are essentially mini-game collections, and Step & Roll does not shy away from including an abundance of multiplayer antics for up to four participants, with names such as Red Light / Green Light, Seesaw Ball, and the hyperactive Monkey Race.
Price: €29.99 / $49.99

Also released in Europe in the first week of February are a few titles that are already out in North America: Ben 10: Vilgax Attacks is coming to Xbox 360, DS, PlayStation 2, PSP and Nintendo Wii; Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers is a Wii-exclusive adventure game; Astroboy is out on DS, PS2, PSP, and Wii; MTV vs ATV Reflex is an off-road racing game for the 360, DS, PS3 and PSP. The Diplomacy expansion pack for Sins of a Solar Empire on PC is released internationally on February 9.

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