Shippin' Out April 7-11: PC Assassin's Creed, Ikaruga, Portal

PC edition of Ubi's actioner and 360 port of classic shooter join Valve's newly a la carte Orange Box offerings--including Team Fortress 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode Pack.

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One week after an April Fools' ship date scared off virtually every publisher, the North American release calendar is approaching something resembling normalcy. Why only "resembling"? Because the highest-profile releases for the week originally saw the light of day as part of last year's holiday gaming deluge.

Selling at a brisk rate on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 since November, Ubisoft Montreal's Assassin's Creed comes to Windows systems this week. Assassin's Creed: Director's Cut Edition on the PC is an extended version of its best-selling console counterpart, with four new types of investigation missions complementing the five preexisting ones. Otherwise, the game offers a similar experience to the critically lauded console editions, with 12th-century assassin Altair plying his trade during the third crusade in the Holy Land, with futuristic elements interwoven into the story for added intrigue.

While Ubisoft's PC edition brings Assassin's Creed to an even wider audience, Valve's offering this week is a bit of a head-scratcher. The Orange Box--which includes Half-Life 2, its first two expansions, Team Fortress 2, and Portal--is already available at retail and through Valve's digital distribution service Steam. While PC gamers are already able to buy the individual pieces of The Orange Box on Steam, EA wants to offer retail customers the same opportunity. As such, PC editions of Team Fortress 2, the award-winning Portal, and Half-Life 2: Episode Pack are all available at brick-and-mortar outlets this week for a respective $29.99, $19.99, and $29.99.

Aside from the aforementioned offerings, this week looks much like the last, with niche titles dominating the lineup. Fighter fans whose tastes skew toward pervy will be pleased to know Arcana Hearts has arrived for the PlayStation 2. Developed by Ecole and distributed by Atlus, Arcana Hearts offers a traditional 2D fighter experience, where players can select from one of 11 different female anime characters. Atlus will also be publishing Sting's postapocalyptic dungeon crawler Baroque for the Wii and PS2. Telltale's humorous episodic adventure series Sam & Max Season Two wraps up its PC run this week with What's New, Beelzebub?.

The niche-gaming theme extends into the downloadable circuit as well, as Treasure's fan-favorite arcade shoot-'em-up Ikaruga arrives on Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade this Wednesday. Available for 800 Microsoft points ($10), Ikaruga is a vertical-scrolling shooter that offers the genre's hallmark punishing gameplay as well as highly detailed anime-style graphics. Several enhancements have been made to the XBLA edition of the game, including two-player co-op, high-definition visuals, and the ability to record gaming sessions.

Lastly, the Wii's Virtual Console has two new additions this week. Originally released for the NES in 1993, Yoshi's Cookie is a shape-matching puzzle game and runs for the standard rate of 500 Wii points ($5). Also pulled from the NES bygone days, baseball classic Bases Loaded is now part of the Wii's online library and can be purchased for 500 Wii points ($5).

This week's new releases are listed below (list taken from retailer information--actual dates may vary).

APRIL 7, 2008
Bases Loaded (WII)
Nancy Drew: Double Dare 5 (PC)
Overclocked: A History of Violence (PC)
Yoshi's Cookie (WII)

APRIL 8, 2008
Assassin's Creed (PC)
Fatal Fury Battle Archives Vol. 2 (PS2)
Plushees (DS)
Fab 5 Soccer (DS)
World Championship Cards (PS2)
Half-Life 2: Episode Pack (PC)
MiniCopter: Adventure Flight (WII)
Arcana Heart (PS2)
Portal (PC)
Team Fortress 2 (PC)
Baroque (PS2, WII)

APRIL 9, 2008
Ikaruga (Xbox 360)

APRIL 10, 2008
Sam & Max Episode 205: What's New, Beelzebub? (PC)

APRIL 11, 2008
Summer Sports: Paradise Island (WII)

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