Monday, November 21, 2011

2011 Holiday Gift Guide Part 1

Here's something completely different. Thanksgiving for America is this Thursday, and Black Friday is the day after that. Be ready to get stomped to bits if you go out that day to a store. Cyber Monday is the following Monday. For gamers, this time of year is always the most exciting. There's games permeating out of every orifice in the industry for every platform under the sun. The following is a list of the top games to look out for that you might want to ask Santa for come this Christmas. The only rule is that I can list but three games for each platform.

[Nintendo Wii]

Nintendo certainly did all they could to make the Wii die off this year. Regardless, there are a handful of interesting games for players to pick out and ask for this holiday season. Link, Kirby, and Mario & Sonic are the main attractions for Nintendo's white box. Special deals including a Wii with New Super Mario Bros. Wii or Mario Kart Wii add to the intrigue of buying the little system that dominated this generation of consoles.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

The Legend of Zelda series is one of the most storied franchises in gaming, and for good reason. It routinely astonishes with its ingenious dungeon design, world of characters players care about, and weapons and items that are fun to use. Skyward Sword fulfills the promise of the Wii almost to a "T" with its impressive Wii MotionPlus motion controls for flying, swinging Link's sword, and solving puzzles. The main story will last players quite a while, and the bonus content/post-game content will add on dozens of hours for advanced players. A full-fledged console Zelda game is generally a once-in-a-generation experience, and Skyward Sword manages to impress heavily. Whether for the young'ins or for fans since the NES classic, Zelda is always in season.

Kirby's Return to Dreamland

Kirby has two games that released this fall for Nintendo systems. We'll talk about the second in the Nintendo DS section. Regardless, Kirby's Return to Dreamland is a return to form of sorts for the pink powder puff. After six years without being on a console with a "traditional" Kirby game, Return to Dreamland brings back the suck-up-an-enemy-take-their-power fun of past games like Super Star and Kirby 64. Powers like tornado, spear, and water show off Kirby's multifaceted abilities, the multiplayer for up to four players is fast and frenetic, and the hidden challenge rooms offer a difficulty usually not seen in Kirby games. Case in point, this game is one of Kirby's best yet, and it is perfect for gamers of all ages, too.

Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games

The Olympics will once again be upon us in 2012, and unlike the first Mario & Sonic game, this third meeting of the mascots does not offer much in the way of waggle. Events of the equestrian variety, table tennis, volleyball soccer, and dream events like synchronized swimming and the dream long jump all offer an excellent amount of variety. If one event doesn't tickle your fancy, move onto the next one! The entire cast of the Mushroom Kingdom (Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Wario, Waluigi, Bowser, etc.) and Sonic's ensemble (Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Eggman, Rouge, Cream, Shadow, Silver, etc.) take on the various events, competing for gold, silver, and bronze medals. The party mode is a giant board game that is tons of fun and replay value. For multiplayer madness, Mario & Sonic's third Olympic game is a great way to hype oneself for the London Olympics.

[PlayStation 3]

With a fifty dollar price cut and an amazing stable of games, the PlayStation 3 is poised to have one of its best years on record. It is selling well worldwide which is something the other consoles really can't say. Whether you buy a PS3 for its Move functionality or pick one up for its great exclusives, the PlayStation 3 is a smart investment for the gamer in your life.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

While the aiming is in desperate need of patching (seriously, what the hell, Naughty Dog?), Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception offers a blockbuster movie type feeling in its gameplay. Players move from interesting and exhilarating set piece to set piece in Nathan Drake's newest quest for fame and fortune. From sinking ships to dusty deserts, Drake has one glorious adventure ahead of him. If the single player campaign isn't doing it for you, use the online pass to hop online and take out opponents in the always-enjoyable multiplayer modes. Whatever your choice and whenever Naughty Dog presents its much anticipated patch, Uncharted 3 is one game to give to the adventurer in all of us.

Resistance 3

The Chimera continue their relentless assault on Earth, sweeping through Europe and slowly but surely taking over North America. One man stands in their way, and you just happen to control him. With a wide array of weaponry that levels up as you continue to use them, splendid level design, awesome visuals, and Move compatibility, Resistance 3 has one of the greatest first-person shooter campaigns of this year. Its pacing is unmatched by even Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3. After taking the continent back from the Chimera, go online and wage war against human assailants to determine whose skills reign supreme. For the adult gamer in your life, there is no FPS better this year than Resistance 3.

LittleBigPlanet 2

The original LittleBigPlanet won Game of the Year at SuperPhillip Central. Its sequel is somehow even better, adding in new materials, gadgets, costumes, and a deviously designed series of levels that effortlessly flow to create one unique gameplay experience. Take three other friends either through local or online play, and guide them through levels of platform peril, collecting prize and score bubbles along the way. Players are not stuck making platforming levels either. They can make shooters, racers-- anything that comes to mind. If the creative process is blocked, those with an online connection can check out levels and games made by other creators. LittleBigPlanet 2 is the total package, perfect for all ages and the kid in all of us.

[Xbox 360]

The Xbox 360 has had its weakest year in 2011 in my opinion. The list of actual exclusives for the console this year is weak at best, but there are some treasures buried within. For kids, Kinect is always the answer with its games that more discerning gamers might not enjoy. Regardless of quality of exclusives, I'm betting another banner holiday season sales-wise for the Xbox 360

Gears of War 3

Participate in the battle to ward off human extinction in Gears of War 3. Take part in the harrowing tale of the human race doing battle against the Locust horde in Epic Games' magnum opus, the final chapter of the Gears trilogy. Use unique weapons like the hammer of dawn, torque bow, and lancer. Go online with other players and slog through the campaign, enter horde mode, or duke it out team style under deathmatch rules. Whatever poison you pick, Gears of War 3 is a wild ride from beginning to end.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Upgrading the visual assets of the original Halo: Combat Evolved and adding more story elements to the game, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary pits players into the role of Master Chief once again. For players familiar with the content of the original Halo, there is the ability to go on Xbox Live and either team up with someone to tackle the game's campaign or do battle on a host of beloved maps from previous games. Halo was the game that put the Xbox on the map. Without it, Microsoft's console brand would not be where it is today. See why Halo is so successful by putting a copy of the anniversary edition in someone's stocking today.

Forza Motorsport 4

Delivering on the promise of an intense racing experience, Forza Motorsport 4 is the third installment to hit the Xbox 360. This iteration offers more car customization than ever before, more models, more brands, more tracks, and more fun. Race through city streets, in the country, or on oval tracks as you speed your way to the checkered flag. Take on opponents from all over the world via Xbox Live to prove your racing mettle and show why you are a regular Mario Andretti. For the racing enthusiast that prefers realism over an arcade-like game, Forza Motorsport 4 cannot be topped.

[Nintendo 3DS]

Starting off to a slow start, the recent price drop swiftly spurred sales. In Japan, the 3DS regularly sells over 100,000 in a week. With an increasing catalog of games and improvements to the handheld's functionality, the Nintendo 3DS is primed to have a tremendous holiday season.

Super Mario 3D Land

EAD Tokyo decided to create a 3D Mario game that wasn't too daunting to casual players. This was performed by making the game more linear and 2D in structure. The end result is the best portable Mario period and a wonderful game in its own right. The controls are tight and responsive, the level design is immensely spectacular, and the 3D functionality adds a glorious sense of depth to the gameplay. It is the best use of the 3D slider thus far. Whether you love platformers or have someone in your life that does, Super Mario 3D Land is the first non-port worthy of picking up a 3DS for.

Mario Kart 7

Containing 32 tracks (16 new and 16 from past Mario Kart games), a bounty of characters to race as including new ones like Metal Mario, Lakitu, Honey Queen, and Wiggler, new items such as the Tanooki Tail and Fire Flower, online features via StreetPass and SpotPass, battle mode, coins, kart customization, underwater and aerial portions of tracks, and feverish racing, Mario Kart 7 is shaping up to be one of the best installments in the franchise yet. Judging by videos and screens alone, the energetic nature of the series continues through Mario Kart 7, and it is no doubt going to be top-seller throughout the holiday season and beyond.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

My favorite game of all time with added content and a bonus difficulty? Where do I sign? Forget it. I don't need to sign. I'm taking it anyway. Link, Zelda, and Ganon return in this epic adventure through time. Selecting weapons and items has never been easier via the touch screen, and aiming with the gyro controls or circle pad has never felt better. Ocarina of Time is a game that has aged splendidly, and it is a testament to Nintendo's design philosophies. The updated graphics are impressive to glance at with or without the 3D slider turned up all the way, and the Master Quest (unlocked after the initial game is complete) adds immense challenge and even more hours to one's play time.

[Nintendo DS]

On its final legs, the Nintendo DS has one of the best libraries in gaming history, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Super Nintendo and PlayStation 2. With it winding down, the amount of notable titles has dwindled down as Nintendo moves its focus towards the 3DS. That notwithstanding, there's still a few titles worth picking up for that special someone.

Professor Layton and the Last Specter

With more puzzles than ever before that will make you scratch your head in bewilderment, the latest Professor Layton game tells the tale of a boy who can somehow pinpoint exactly when and where a mysterious specter will attack the countryside town of Misthallery. When the specter arrives, a forlorn-sounding flute is heard. Join Professor Layton and his assistant Emma on their journey to discover the truth about the destructive specter before its too late! Perfect for puzzle-solvers of the older mindset, The Last Specter makes for a great gift idea.

Kirby Mass Attack

An army of Kirbys-- could there be anything more cute? Perhaps a basket full of puppies or kittens... Regardless, Kirby's second adventure this year has him split up between ten Kirbys. With a touch of the stylus, you control the movements of the entire fleet, ganging up on enemies that couldn't be defeated by a Kirby on his lonesome, finding medals, and beating big bosses. Kirby is one of Nintendo's favorite guinea pigs for new gameplay ideas, and Kirby Mass Attack is one of these games. It succeeds well at what it sets out to do with tons of content, loads of mini-games, and oodles of Easter eggs. No matter your age or skill level, there's something for everybody with Kirby Mass Attack.

Radiant Historia

This time-travel turn-based RPG was all the rage within certain gamer circles. Now you, too, can experience what makes this game so good when you pick yourself up a copy. Think of it as a gift for yourself, or perhaps give it to someone who appreciates a solid RPG. Whoever gets their grubby mitts on this game will dive into a beautiful world full of intriguing characters, gorgeous environments, and a compelling story. It is everything an RPG fan could ever want, but in portable form. An overlooked gem in the DS library, Radiant Historia is one game worth investing one's time in.

[Sony PSP]

Hard times are synonymous with the PSP. Rampant piracy, low software sales in everywhere except Japan, and many third parties not localizing their games for Western audiences are problems that plague the system. Nonetheless, there are some diamonds in the aforementioned rough. The games listed are also quite cheap, too!

Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy

Putting some of the most known and loved characters of the Final Fantasy universe together and pitting them against one another is a recipe for fun. Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy makes well on that recipe with fast and frenetic fighting, varying combat styles for each character, gorgeous summons, and well designed characters. Even though it was released in March of this year, it has already dropped to $19.99. That's a steal for the amount of content provided with this game. Whether you like Tidus, Terra, Cecil, Cloud, Sephiroth, Kefka, Kuja, Golbez, or any of the other assortment of Final Fantasy all-stars, Dissidia 012 is a Final Fantasy fan's wet dream.

Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

A tactical RPG, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is a remake of the PS1 classic. With an engaging story, hundreds of hours of content to be had, and multiple character classes to master, Let Us Cling Together is a steal at its current MSRP of $19.99, the same as Dissidia 012. The value presented here is tremendous, and fans of Final Fantasy Tactics or Jeanne D'Arc will have fits of excitement plowing away at this game. Any title that is made by the creators of Final Fantasy Tactics is bound to be a good game, and that isn't any more apparent than with Tactics Ogre.

Patapon 3

Completing the trifecta of $19.99 titles comes Patapon 3, the latest installment of the widely celebrated series of rhythm-based action games. Command your arsenal of troops with taps of buttons. Just be sure to match the beats as you take down monsters both small and large. Customize your tribe with a plethora of varied weapons from spears to swords and level them up to create stronger Patapon to unleash heck on your enemies. There's nothing more frightening than seeing an army of black blobs coming straight for you. For a game anyone can pick up and play, Patapon 3 is an excellent and cheap choice.


Tomorrow we will take a glance at some multi-platform titles that will look sooooooo good nestled under your tree this holiday season. What games are on your wish list this Christmas/Hanukkah/other holiday?


Matt Sainsbury said...

Some really great suggestions in there. I especially loved the PSP ones - as they'd be exactly what I recommended as well (though my most played PSP game this year is White Knight Chronicles: Origins, which I don't believe was released over there).

Personally I would have added Assassin's Creed, Skyrim and Dynasty Warriors 7 (the best DW game of all time) to the list of must-haves this Christmas. Just me though :-)

Unknown said...

Yeah, it never came to North American shores unfortunately. I'll have multi-platform stuff like Skyrim tomorrow... well... now it's later today. :)