With Christmas just under two weeks away nearly all of the major game releases for the year 2009 are now out. As expected, September brought on a steady shower of anticipated new titles, culminating in the annual November downpour of blockbusters, with Modern Warfare 2 and New Super Mario Bros. Wii standing out among them. Scattered trickles remained this week, but for the most part everyone's Christmas wishlist is now set. Let the excited giggling begin!
Of course, not every highly anticipated game made the Christmas deadline. Some that were originally scheduled to be ready were pushed back, whether due to falling behind schedule in finishing or to avoid all the competition, which seemed especially heavy this year (Modern Warfare 2.) In fact, this post-holiday period looks to be more exciting for Wii owners (or at least me) than the run up to December. Whether they were pushed back or not, these upcoming games have the potential to give the Wii one hell of a start to 2010.
I think a lot of people have been ignoring this one, at least if there are a lot of people like me. Up until about two or three months ago I'd assumed Crystal Bearers was going to largely follow the multiplayer mold of the three previous retail Crystal Chronicles games. I'd managed to play the first one on Gamecube a handful of times when my group of friends managed to get the requisite hardware together, and it was fun. The two follow-up games on the DS reduced the accessory overhead and added online play, but reviews weren't as kind to them, and I'd pretty much written off the series.
Then the magazine and online previews started hitting for Crystal Bearers. The September '09 Nintendo Power cover story mentions the game's troubled development history, with changes in direction and at one point even a rumor that the game had been canceled. Given that situation and the fact that two other games bearing the Crystal Chronicles name were also in development it's little wonder then that Crystal Bearers hasn't been on many minds. What grabbed me was the revelation that it's not the multiplayer-focused dungeon crawl of the past titles, but a single player action game revolving around Wii remote-controlled telikinetic powers. "You mean you have to use your hands? That's like a baby's toy!" some of you are now saying. Yeah, there are times I don't feel like waving around the remote, either, but if Crystal Bearers can pull it off well, as several games before it have (Lost Winds, NyxQuest, No More Heroes) it could be a very good time indeed.
Of the games I'm writing about here this is possibly the most anticipated, and the one I'm most likely to pick up at release. From the beginning of middle school until the beginning of college I hadn't played a Capcom fighting game since Street Fighter II Turbo on the SNES. The biggest reason? I had a Nintendo 64. The system saw 3 paltry releases from Capcom, two of them ports of PS1 games and one of them a version of Tetris. I loved the 64, but I couldn't help wondering what the hell the deal was when I thumbed through Electronic Gaming Monthly on the newsstands and saw things like Darkstalkers and Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Marvel vs. Capcom.
This drought in Nintendo fanboy land was finally ended by Capcom vs. SNK 2 getting ported to the Gamecube, and while it proved to be the sole Capcom fighting entry on the system it was enough for my starved heart. In fact, more than enough, as over half the cast were unfamiliar to me. Aside from Terry Bogard and Mai Shiranui I didn't recognize anyone on the SNK side, and there were even a few Capcom characters I couldn't identify. It didn't take long, however, to learn more about them and fall in love just by fighting as and against them. And now, with Tatsunoko vs. Capcom I feel a little déjà vu: Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Street Fighter IV, and Marvel vs. Capcom 2 were all released (or re-released) in this past year, with none of them touching the Wii, a blow that was even harder to take with the knowledge that there was a new fighter on Wii that looked like it would never leave Japan. But now, here it comes, another Capcom Vs. fighting game where I get to fall in love with a cast I know nearly nothing about. Can't wait.
My second most anticipated game, which, according to Amazon, is releasing a day after my #1? Good God! I'm honestly not likely to pick this up until later, as I'm something of an asshole and know the price is likely to drop quickly and that short term ideal matters more to me than the higher concept of supporting games (and creators) that take risks, but the first game left such an impression on me that I will be picking up the sequel in the not-too-distant future. I've gone on a media blackout for the game, ignoring previews, trailers, and the like. As Tron Knotts noted, director/auteur Suda51 is great at packing in the surprises, and I want to see it all in the proper context. For those who know nothing about the first game: bloody, funny, and weird. Go rent it at least, the risk that you may not care for it is far outweighed by how much you might enjoy it.
The non-licensed standard-bearer of the long-lived Mystery Dungeon series extraneous-hyphens-joke for the attention-paying reader, Shiren sees its third installment on Wii, the second installment to make it to the States after the port of the SNES game for the Nintendo DS. I've never played any of the Mystery Dungeon games, and I've only played a little bit of Nethack, enough to see the underlying appeal but not quite enough to push through the learning curve. However, Spelunky has had me in it's grasp since version 1.0 came out a few months ago, and through repated enjoyable murders may have instilled in me the proper mindset with which to approach more traditional roguelikes. This recent obsession combined with Atlus handling the localization (I'm one of the many converted to the cult by Persona 3 ) has resulted in Shiren grabbing my attention. I only hope I can muster the required patience and not get totally distracted by other games if/when I decide to play it.
You play as a boy in a post-apocalyptic world chasing after a girl who keeps running away for you or keeps getting torn away from you or something. And there's Wii remote-as-flashlight gameplay, and some creepy stuff. What little I've seen so far can be summed up with three adjectives: sad, mysterious, and beautiful. My only problem is I'd feel guilty if I tackled it before some other games in my current RPG backlog. I hope it stays on sale long enough for me to give it a shot.
Much like Crystal Bearers I'd written this one off based on the name alone. Pokémon and Monster Rancher were the automatic associations my brain made upon reading the two word title. It wasn't long ago that I finally learned Monster Hunter isn't like either of those games, being real-time, action-based, and with a focus on the player characters personally slaughtering animals for food and armor rather than training them for cockfights. I have a feeling the fervent Monster Hunter fanbase has had to put up with that kind of ignorance a lot when trying to talk to people about it. No word yet on whether Capcom will implement the same fee system for the big draw of online multiplayer that they do in Japan, or make it free, or come up with something else, but I can see myself getting sucked into the single player alone. Good old addictive quest-for-better-stuff gameplay.
The graphics are pretty damn good for a Wii game as well.
Bad Dudes, Caveman Ninja, Burgertime, and Magical Drop III are going to be the major draw of this one. I love arcade collections, especially the ones that let me recall long-forgotten games like The Super Spy, which I didn't remember the title of for years and thought it had been a licensed James Bond game. Also encouraging to see these collections still coming out at bargain prices when digital distribution lets them sell games piecemeal for potentially much more. I honestly thought the Virtual Console was going to be the death of these when the Wii launched, and I'm happy to be wrong.
The Williams Collection was great, featuring the best videogame recreations of classic pinball tables since... well, ever. This collection is slightly less exciting, being that Gottlieb is generally acknowledged to be second fiddle of pinball companies next to the designs of the Williams team, and the fact that this is a port of the collection that appeared on the Gamecube, PS2, and Xbox several years ago, AND the Wii version has been out in Europe as Gottlieb Pinball Classics since the end of 2006. It should still be a great way to scratch the itch for those who've played Williams Collection to death, and includes three more tables than the earlier versions as well, enough to make it worth picking up over the other versions at the budget price.
Never did get around to the first Endless Ocean, and then it went out of print relatively quickly. A small bother, as the sequel looks to expand upon the underwater exploration premise considerably. I haven't seen much about it since Nintendo revealed it in their fall press conference last year, and it only recently received the new subtitle and a release date. Might make the perfect complement to Shiren as a way to relax after dying and losing your godlike sword.
Game:Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney From: Capcom
I have all three of the Phoenix Wright games on DS already, but the WiiWare ports are fantastic news for anyone who never tracked them down. As a bonus, maybe they'll fix all the typos in Justice For All. For the full effect, please start with the first game!
Game:Bit.Trip 4 From: Gaijin Games (published by Aksys)
Holmes, you dirty tease. Oh well, I still have to finish Beat and get the other two games as well.
Game:Cave Story From: Nicalis
A man can dream.
WHEW! I hope some of you are as excited as I am about this upcoming lineup, because that sure looks like a lot of words all typed up in Notepad. There have been times when it seemed the interesting Wii releases were few and far between, but those look to be a distant memory until the usual summer doldrums. Whatever happened to pack Q1 2010 with so much to look forward to on the platform is fantastic. And I haven't yet mentioned Sin & Punishment 2 or Metroid: Other M, which don't yet have release dates. Then almost a year from now there's Super Mario Galaxy 2!
What are you looking forward to? I probably missed some.