The games of March 2012

While free of system launches, March is another grea­t month to be a gamer, thanks to an opening week that kicks off with the likes of Mass Effect 3 and Street Fighter X Tekken. Luckily, the action doesn’t let up after that, with each week offering a mix of ­big releases and promising under-the-radar fare, with a bit of nearly everything hitting retail shelves and/or digital storefronts before April rolls around. Check out our detailed synopsis of the month ahead, spawn your own must-have lists, and start saving for an exciting span of fresh releases.­

March 6

Mass Effect 3

Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
EU: March 9

What, you expected something else to lead this piece? Arguably the biggest release of the month, if not the quarter – and for many, no doubt, the year – Mass Effect 3 touches down on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC in just a few short days, finally bringing Commander Shepard’s action/role-playing trilogy to a close. After months spent bickering about additions like multiplayer and Kinect controls, not to mention the recent playable demo and discs-in-space PR stunt, we can’t wait for everyone to dive in and simply experience this long-awaited conclusion, which will quite hopefully have been worth the wait. Not fully up to speed on what to expect from this sci-fi blockbuster? Be sure to consult our various hands-on previews for in-depth impressions.

Street Fighter X Tekken

Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
EU: March 9

Perhaps the most surprising fighting crossover game to date drops next week, bringing together the casts of Street Fighter and Tekken in a tag-team entry based on the fighting style of the former. The Xbox 360 version features nearly 40 fighters, with half pulled from each series, while the PlayStation 3 release adds a few extras, like Cole from Infamous, Pac-Man, and Mega Man in his hilarious NES box art incarnation. A PC version is set to follow in May, while a Vita release is due this fall with all the PS3 extras plus 12 more fighters (six each from the two series). Whatever system you want it on, Street Fighter X Tekken looks to be an exciting blend of two very different genre leaders.

Unit 13

Platform: PlayStation Vita
EU: March 7

The Vita’s second wave of releases starts next week, headlined by Unit 13, the original shooter developed by SOCOM creator Zipper Interactive. While visually quite similar to its long-running counterpart, Unit 13 focuses on solo operatives, of which the game includes six differentiated by unique strengths (like stealth or explosives). Moreover, Unit 13 is defined in large part by its emphasis on quick-hit missions, with some that can be completed in as little as three minutes. It’s that handheld-friendly approach that Zipper hopes makes this a standout Vita shooter, plus a random daily challenge gives you something new to check out with each sunrise. Be sure to scope out our latest hands-on preview for more on this military-themed affair.

MLB 12: The Show

Platform: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita

The other big early Vita release this month spawns from the most consistent sports franchise on the market: Sony’s MLB: The Show. Replacing the flat-lining PSP side of the series, the Vita entry will hopefully bring much of the beloved PlayStation 3 baseball experience to the small screen – but it’s certainly not alone this year. On PS3, MLB 12: The Show looks to introduce some new additions and enhancements, such as full PlayStation Move integration and totally redone “TruBroadcast” presentation that looks to better emulate TV broadcasts. The Show hasn’t let us down on the console side in years; with luck, MLB 12 can kick-start a similar baseball dynasty on the Vita as well.

Major League Baseball 2K12

Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, PSP, DS, PS2

2K Sports’ own hardball series continues the trend of being the sim available for the widest array of platforms, even reaching as far back as PlayStation 2 and Nintendo DS this time around; though Vita and 3DS are curiously missing. Major League Baseball 2K12 looks to build upon the same core formula it’s been trying to perfect for years – with last year’s being a pretty good effort – while adding the new MLB Today Season mode, wherein you can play that day’s real-life game for your team of choice throughout the season. And in a cool twist for Xbox 360 owners, 2K will make available a bundle pack with MLB 2K12 and NBA 2K12 for $69.99 – $10 more than buying MLB 2K12 alone – to give baseball fans an affordable way to check out the fantastic b-ball sim on the side.

MotorStorm RC

Platform: PSN (PS3/Vita)
EU: Out

MotorStorm RC squeezes the first couple entries’ style of multi-vehicle off-road mayhem into a much smaller package in two ways: not only does it feature tiny remote-controlled cars tearing it up in the desert and jungle, but it’s a PlayStation Network download. And on top of that, it’s a single release that works near-identically on both PlayStation 3 and Vita for a surely tiny price point. We have to wait ’til next week to play on either platform, but our European counterparts got MotorStorm RC at the Vita launch and we’ve been hearing some very strong things about the racer. It looks like an updated take on the classic Micro Machines formula, overhead perspective and all.

Crush 3D

Platform: Nintendo 3DS
EU: Out

Fans of the original PSP version of Crush – released nearly five years ago – can anxiously tell you why Crush 3D should be on the horizon of any Nintendo 3DS puzzle fan, but actually finding many might be tough. Crush earned itself a loyal following with its cerebral, perspective-based take on puzzling platform scenarios, but was dead on arrival at retail. Luckily, the idea of “crushing” 3D stages to into 2D versions works beautifully with the 3DS’ visual effect, so Sega saw fit to spawn this remake, which outfits the original content with a brand new art style and additional features to round out the package. Hopefully, Sega finds the 3DS install base large enough this time around, after delaying the game from fall due to slow system sales.

The Sims 3: Showtime

Platform: PC
EU: March 9

The Sims 3 train keeps chugging along on PC after nearly three years, with the next big expansion pack – The Sims 3: Showtime – due out next week. With a focus on crafting big-time entertainers, Showtime lets you create a singer, magician, acrobat, or DJ and work your way to stardom via interactive performances. Additionally, the pack introduces a new SimPort feature, which lets you share one Sim with a friend and likewise host one in your Sims world. For super fans, EA is releasing a Katy Perry-themed Special Edition, which features the likeness and songs of the pop star, while the standard version is inexplicably called a Limited Edition. And if you’re starting fresh, there’s a pack with both The Sims 3 and Showtime in one.

Top Gun: Hard Lock

Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
EU: April 5

It’s been more than 25 years since Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer traversed the highway to the danger zone, as it were, but the popular ’80s film continues to spawn new combat flight titles – like the latest, Top Gun: Hard Lock. A single-player campaign mode promises 15 missions based on a fresh wave of Top Gun Academy graduates, along with three online multiplayer modes designed for 16 players. With numerous licensed aircraft onboard, Hard Lock should appease flight fans looking for something a little more modern on the console side; even if the name doesn’t deliver the same kind of fresh feeling it did back when.

Nicktoons MLB 3D

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Rather than release Major League Baseball 2K12 on the Nintendo 3DS, 2K Sports will instead drop an enhanced version of last fall’s cartoonish, arcade-style option, titled Nicktoons MLB 3D. The earlier console release essentially added the likes of Ren & Stimpy and SpongeBob SquarePants to The Bigs, and from what we’ve seen, the 3DS version looks to be a fairly faithful handheld translation. Nicktoons MLB 3D includes 27 cartoon players and 175 pros with updated rosters (and the new Miami Marlins uniforms), along with a new Frosty Freeze Toss augmented reality mode.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7

Platform: PlayStation Vita
EU: March 9

For PlayStation Vita owners, next week’s release of LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 offers an opportunity to catch up on one of the better family-friendly titles of the holiday season. From what we can surmise, the Vita version of the game – which spans the content from the last three books/four movies of the popular franchise – looks to add new locations, challenges, spells, and more, along with both front and rear touch controls. You’ll be able to aim spells and lock onto foes with the back touch panel, while snagging items and assembling objects (and participating in duels) with the front screen.

March 7

I Am Alive

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
EU: March 7

Ubisoft’s I Am Alive has been on the horizon for longer than most of the big retail releases hitting stores this month, but it’s finally set to launch on Xbox Live Arcade next week as the last title in the XBLA House Party (a PSN release will follow later). Set in a large city one year following the apocalyptic “Event,” you’ll play as a man forced to survive in a wasteland dominated by crumbling buildings and aggressive rival survivors, all while battling the toxic elements and managing resources. Third-person pairings of navigation and combat aren’t unfamiliar, but the unique setting of a trashed, scalable urban metropolis looks to give I Am Alive a fresh slant. Scope out our last hands-on preview for much more on what to expect come next week.

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