Weekly video game releases: 'StarCraft II,' 'BlazBlue: Continuum Shift,' 'Ace Combat: Joint Assault'

Among upcoming video game releases:
StarCraft II for PC and Mac is one of the most important releases of 2010 thanks to the genre-defining impact of the original
StarCraft in 1998; the praised game
BlazBlue gets a sequel in the form of
Continuum Shift; and
Ace Combat: Joint Assault on PSP marks a rare foray into real-world locations for the jetfighter series.

StarCraft II (PC, Mac)
Release: Worldwide, July 27
Age Rating: Teen / 16+

The followup to 1998's StarCraft, the real-time strategy par excellence, has been in development since 2003 and comes from Blizzard, which is behind World of Warcraft's success. StarCraft II builds on the success of the first in both single and multiplayer modes. Blizzard have learned a thing or two from the WoW experience: Russian, Mexican, Chilean and Argentinian gamers can buy cut-price retail copies and then top up online play with a subscription service - or buy direct from Blizzard's Battle.net for infinite credits.
Price: $59.99 / €59.99
Collectors Edition (DVD, CD, comic etc.): $99.99 / €89.99

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift (360, PS3)
Release: North America, July 27. Europe, October.
Age rating: Teen

Quickly establishing itself as an essential entry in any fighting game fan's library, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger took many by surprise with a style and flair that proved robust under scrutiny. Continuum Shift was bestowed with a good score from Famitsu's four reviewers (9/8/9/8) though Europeans will have to wait a little longer - Calamity Trigger didn't come out there until April of this year so it's a bit early yet for the sequel.
Price: $39.99
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Fightstick arcade style controller: $199.99

Ace Combat: Joint Assault (PSP)
Release: Europe, July 30. North America, August 31.
Age Rating: 12+ / Teen

The larger-than-life Ace Combat dogfighting series debuted in 1995 as Air Combat on the PlayStation One and has been on PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, and even Apple's iOS. Joint Assault will be the second PSP title but diverges from the series formula in that it uses real-world locations - London, Egypt, San Francisco and Tokyo among them - alongside the overblown storylines and gigantic airplanes on world-ending bombing runs. Joint Assault also allows up to four players to play missions co-operatively over the internet, in addition to the standard versus mode.
Price: $39.99 / €39.99

Harvest Moon DS: Grand Bazaar (DS)
Release: North America, July 27
Age Rating: Everyone

It's been around since 1996 and the Harvest Moon series doesn't look like it's going away anytime soon - the cute crop-tending farm simulations should strike a chord with anyone exposed to FarmVille or Happy Farm, though Harvest Moon fleshes out the farming with pets, family life, and a new story for each game. Grand Bazaar is not considered to be the pinnacle of perfection among series fans, but its cut-down nature could still prove less daunting for newcomers than the full-fledged (and very much admired) Rune Factory spin-offs, for example.
Price: $29.99

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (360)
Release: August 8 via Xbox Live Arcade
Age Rating: Teen / 12+

Resurrecting the legendary Castlevania series for Xbox 360 is old hand Koji Igarashi, who has worked on a vast number of Castlevania games. True to its heritage, Harmony of Despair is a side-scrolling 2D action adventure, modernized with room for up to six players co-operating online.
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points ($15 / €14)

Madden NFL 11 (360 iPhone PS2 PS3 PSP Wii)
Release: North America, August 10. Europe, August 13.

This year, Madden NFL claims to be simpler, quicker, and deeper than before, compressing a full hour-long game into 30 minutes of playtime and making it easier to instruct teams. Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints became the latest Madden cover athlete after pulling in the most fan votes. 360 and PS3 trial demos are scheduled for release July 27.
Price: Price: $59.99 / €59.99 (360 PS3), $49.99 / €49.99 (Wii), $39.99 / €39.99 (PS2 PSP)

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