Digital | ON: GAMES

Favorites just got even better

by Brian Ashcraft

For the love of ‘Kingdom Hearts’

The wait is over: “Kingdom Hearts III” is finally coming out. Originally announced in 2013, this is the third mainline entry in the popular “Kingdom Hearts” series, a collaboration between Square Enix and the world of Disney.

The “Kingdom Hearts” games are action role-playing games with characters wielding Keyblade weapons, and Sora, the main playable character, joined by Disney favorites, such as Donald Duck, Goofy and, of course, Mickey Mouse.

This time around, the story picks up the story after 2010’s Nintendo 3DS game “Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance” and players can explore new worlds based on popular Disney and Pixar films, including “Frozen,” “Toy Story” and “Monster’s Inc.” Diehard Disney fans will be happy to know that the in-game “Toy Story” plot takes place between “Toy Story 2” and “3” and that the “Big Hero 6” tale takes after the events of the movie.

The wait for “Kingdom Hearts III” has been years, and Sony is releasing a special “Kingdom Hearts III” emblazoned PS4 to mark the long anticipated occasion. There is a 500GB variation for ¥36,698 and a 1TB one for ¥42,098. The jet black console is outfitted with a special “Kingdom Hearts III” themed cover and offers an original wallpaper, but it doesn’t come with a copy of the game. For that, you’ll need ¥9,504, and it will be released on Xbox One and PS4 on Jan. 25.

Japanese: www.jp.square-enix.com/kingdom/kh3 English: kingdomhearts.com/3/us/home

Travis is back

When the first “No More Heroes” was released on the Nintendo Wii, players were dazzled by its stylish characters, striking art style and quirky gameplay (to save games, you had to get the hero Travis Touchdown to go to the toilet!). Travis is back with “No More Heroes: Travis Strikes Again,” ready to ooze with gaming cool.

For “Travis Strikes Again,” a Nintendo Switch exclusive, the hero faces off Badman, a former pro baseball player turned professional killer and the father of Bad Girl, a character our video game hero snuffed out in a previous installment.

Badman wants revenge for his dead daughter.

Travis has been spending his time in a trailer van playing video games when Badman catches up with him. Both characters are sucked into a games console called the Death Drive Mark II, with Travis forced to navigate using a Death Glove. Travis and Badman then battle it out to be the first to beat bosses of various games. For co-op play, a friend can team up with you as Badman. In the game, enemies burst into pixels, and the look and the feel evoke classic indie games.

“Travis Strikes Again” is the first game Goichi Suda, the “No More Heroes” creator, has directed since the original. The hack and slash element and sense of humor remain, but “Travis Strikes Again,” with its different mini-games, keeps things fresh. Suda is a mainstay on the Japanese indie-game circuit, making regular appearances at BitSummit, the country’s biggest indie game event. This latest “No More Heroes” entry is less of a “special” and more of his love letter to retro and indie gaming. Oh, and “Travis Strikes Again” still has the toilet saves.

Priced at ¥3,218, “No More Heroes: Travis Strikes Back” will be released on Jan. 18.

Japanese: ec.nintendo.com/JP/ja/titles/70010000015124 English: bit.ly/travisstrikes

Fight in flight

Namco Bandai goes to great lengths to recreate the experience of flying fighter planes for its “Ace Combat” games, and yet it manages to keep them well balanced with engaging storylines. “Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown” looks to be no exception.

Set during a conflict between Erusea and Osea, two fictional countries on the continent of Usean, “Ace Combat 7” has photorealistic graphics, aircraft customization and both single-player and multiplayer missions. Many other military themed games, including “Call of Duty,” have dropped single player modes to focus on multiplayer, so it’s nice to see that Namco still cares about solo gamers looking for robust storylines.

“Ace Combat 7: Unknown Skies” will be released on the PS4, Xbox One and Steam. The PS4 version includes PlayStation VR exclusive missions and looks to be the most immersive of all.

The PS4 and Xbox One versions will be released on Jan. 17 for ¥8,200, while the Steam version will be out in February.

Japanese: ace7.acecombat.jp English: www.bandainamcoent.com/games/ace-combat-7