Xbox Games With Gold Freebies for June Far From Super

By on June 15, 2021

Between last month and this one, there’s a lot of pretty great new video games to play across all platforms, and it’s possible that Microsoft hopes that’ll be enough to make one shrug off their inclusions for June’s Xbox Games With Gold. It’s tough to know what they’re really thinking with their choices nowadays, though, as this month’s roster makes it seem like they’re evading obvious ones and instead picking less desirable or dated substitutions.

At this point, they have to know baseline subscribers are less than satisfied with what they’ve been offering recently; whether something will be done about it remains to be seen. Until then, Live subscribers will have to settle for a borderline mediocre month of dungeon crawlers, 2D platformers, and outdated fighting games.  Let’s take a closer look, but before you do, consider Grabbing a 3-Month Subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate from Amazon for access to a plethora of titles alongside these freebies.

king's bird xbox

Xbox One

The King’s Bird (June 1-30)

After the likes of LIMBO and Outland left their mark on the console arcade scene, the “silhouette platformer” has slowly formed into its own subgenre. The sharp contrast of black shadows against vibrant backgrounds makes for visually involving experiences, ones that also take some pressure off the creators in rendering character models so they can dedicate their energy to creative level design. The King’s Bird follows in those same artistic footsteps, yet takes them a step further, both in the artistic nature of it all and the challenging aspects of the level design.

As the game’s visuals become inherent to its avant-garde storytelling, the briskness of the gameplay takes the challenge to another level, resembling the timing and coordination of the likes of Super Meat Boy in how the character scales and bounces between walls of the vibrant atmosphere. Critics and players both have been mixed on The King’s Bird, embracing the visuals and momentum but dinging the difficulty and conceptual narrative.

Shadows: Awakening (June 16-July 15)

Roughly half a decade back, there was a welcome spike in new isometric role-playing experiences, marked by “spiritual” returns to the Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment realms with Pillars of Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numenera. While the games differ in their combat styles, neither are twitch hack-‘n-slash experiences, and their sustained popularity and the energy of Kickstarter campaigns ensured that others in this lower-key vein would come out of the woodwork. 

Released at the end of 2014, Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms responded to the mounting demand for old-school RPGs and quietly slipped onto the scene little earlier than those. It leans more into the real-time tactical combat design as the player gains control of a demon who consumes the souls of the human realm, leading into heavy choice-based gameplay and variety of combat based on the types of souls consumed. Awakening compiled both the story of Heretic Kingdoms and a new extension of the narrative into one experience, one that’s praised for its versatility, visuals, and gameplay systems while also critiqued for repetitive puzzles and combat.

injustice xbox

Xbox 360

NeoGeo Battle Coliseum (June 1-15)

The rising popularity of Marvel vs. Capcom and Super Smash Bros. Melee proved that mashing together popular characters from a bunch of franchises, whether they were similar or not, was a desirable idea. Already in a downward slope, the SNK/NeoGeo fighting game arena decided to hop on this bandwagon by releasing NeoGeo Battle Coliseum, which brings together popular characters across the company’s key franchises – mostly fighting games of varying types – into a familiar tag-team fighting setup.

There’s no denying the draw to being able to pit popular characters from across the sometimes overlooked SNK roster against each other – Terry from Fatal Fury, Ryo from Art of Fighting, Haohmaru from Samurai Shodown – and Coliseum delivers on that promise. Unfortunately, both critics and players agree that there isn’t enough in the execution to keep the game from seeing like it’s just playing catchup to its competitors, though the obvious pleasures in seeing familiar characters squaring off against one another will have its own distinct reward for SNK/NeoGeo enthusiasts.

Injustice: Gods Among Us (June 16-30)

Not entirely unlike NeoGeo Battle Coliseum, the attraction to Injustice: Gods Among Us will obviously be the opportunity to pit popular characters from across a universe against one another. Only with this one, the folks at Netherrealm Studios – essentially Midway – bring together the bigger-than-life personalities of the DC comic books into their arena, allowing hand-to-hand fights between Superman and Batman, Flash and Green Arrow, even Bane and Doomsday to happen in near Mortal Kombat style.

Seeing certain superheroes and villains battling against each other without one immediately losing to another might be a tough pill to swallow — *nudge, wink* — but Injustice: Gods Among Us finds a way for it to make sense and, in the process, ends up telling an above-average story for a fighting game. Both players and critics agree that regardless of the zaniness of the story’s setup, the fighting itself delivers on all levels and reflects the effort put into it from Ed Boon and the MK team. It’s a shame that this isn’t the Ultimate Edition, though.

About Thomas Spurlin

Film, home-media, and videogame scribe who digs green tea and walking his dogs.

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