Five new release picks for Tuesday, August 31

The media of today is hard to keep up with -- it comes from so many directions and in so many forms that it's next to impossible to keep track of your favorite artists, let alone new ones. Because we're devoted to your convenience, we're going to pick five things each week that rise above the pale, that have some distinction, that, ultimately, we think are worthy of your notice. Feel free to sound off on anything you plan on picking up on release day in the comments.

5. Valkyria Chronicles II (PSP) The first Valkyria Chronicles was an underappreciated gem that sold miserably and was overlooked by most of the population. Perhaps because of these failures, the sequel is being released on the PS3's baby-cousin, the PSP. If the cover dissuades you, we understand -- but buried behind the anime-looks is an excellent turn-based strategy game that is both innovative and enjoyable. It combines a real-time system with a turn-based one, and even though the look of it is a little fruity, it's incredibly in-depth. It might take non-anime dorks a little while to get passed the art style, but once you do, it's a rewarding experience.
4. Conan: The Newspaper Strips Volume 1 You might vaguely remember the Conan newspaper strip; you might not remember it at all -- regardless, it was one of those daily strips that could catch the eye of any small boy with its massive dudes and big swords. If you were one of those boys, now is your chance to see if those strips were actually any good. If you weren't, perhaps now's the time to tell you: Comic strips used to way different than they are today -- many of them had serialized narratives; many were for adults. Sorry if we just blew your mind.

3. The Insufferable Gaucho by Roberto Bolaño Bolaño crept into the American psyche with his book The Savage Detectives, then suddenly burst onto the scene with his epic, final novel, released posthumously, 2666. With the success of 2666, a number of his works are being translated, including The Insufferable Gaucho, a collection of stories and essays. Judging solely on the story, "The Insufferable Gaucho," which the New Yorker printed a few years ago, it looks like a superb collection of Bolaño's Borges-flavored fiction.
2. Metroid: Other M (Wii) The Metroid series has had a long and storied past, from its two-dimensional roots on the Nintendo through its handheld equivalents and up to it's three dimensional trilogy, Metroid Prime. Now the series is back with a completely new direction. Other M takes all of the complicated bits from the series, from exploration to research, and simplifies or removes them. It's a stripped down experience, one that makes Metroid easier to handle for newcomers, but might not be received as well by the series' biggest fans. 1. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen Franzen is America's current literary darling -- so much so that the President himself picked up a copy of Freedom before release day. His novels have won countless prizes and critical acclaim. It's been nine years since his last fiction novel, but the wait is over today. The book is set to revisit Franzen's skewed portrait of the American Midwest, with macabre characters, disjointed families and confused values.
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Thorin Klosowski
Contact: Thorin Klosowski