The “Assassin’s Creed” series finally makes its way to the New World, and despite its relative youth, colonial America has no shortage of activities for fresh, half Native American protagonist Connor Kenway. He’ll take his parkour skillset to the treetops of the vast American frontier, sink redcoat ships in spectacular naval battles, and assassinate everything from prominent historical figures to unsuspecting bunny rabbits scurrying through the forest below. While not as charismatic as previous hero, Ezio, Connor benefits from a homegrown story that will probably feel more familiar to U.S. audiences than the Crusades and Renaissance events of earlier games. Connor Forrest Gumps his way through everything from the Boston Tea Party to the Battle of Bunker Hill, discovering plenty of Templar conspiracies along the way.
“Assassin’s Creed III” might have the most detailed open world environment ever brought to life. Rats scurry through the streets, crowds of townspeople ceaselessly go about their business and the gorgeous New England backdrop changes with the seasons. The narrative is a slow starter (beginning as early as Connor’s childhood), but once the game finally gives you the freedom for which the series is famous, the story missions and sidequests offer virtually endless variety. As always, the present day-set Desmond missions are the weakest in the game, although Desmond’s growing repertoire of assassin moves makes his segments less objectionable than usual. And as the first game promised, his story is wrapped up just in time for the scheduled 2012 apocalypse. The resolution feels a bit anticlimactic — an unavoidable side effect of leaving the series open for further sequels. But on the bright side, the series is open for further sequels.
Rather than settling for a feature-stripped version of the console game, the handheld counterpart of “Assassin’s Creed III” presents a brand new adventure, introducing an 18th century New Orleans locale and a female assassin. In addition to brandishing a hidden blade, Aveline de Grandpre has the ability to change outfits, disguising herself as a slave or a member of high society — with each façade having varying effects on her stealth and combat capabilities. But Aveline’s costumes can’t conceal the game’s flaws, and once you get past the amazement that Ubisoft managed to fit a full-fledged “Assassin’s Creed” game on the Vita, you’ll begin to notice problems like a sloppy plot and technical shortcomings.
“Okami” presents a watercolor world ready for you to manipulate with the magic of your celestial brush, and that canvas is now rendered in high-definition 1080p. Though originally released on the PlayStation 2, “Okami” barely needs a graphical update. Its stylized ink-and-paint backgrounds and animations are as breathtaking as they were in 2006. The gameplay holds up as well, with you learning new magical brush techniques in order to manipulate time and space, thus guiding Amaterasu through the game’s “Zelda”-esque puzzles. If you missed it the first time around, you owe it to yourself to experience a game that is, literally, a work of art. CV