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On the Horizon: the Nintendo consoles
by Sean Engemann
Another holiday season has passed, and with it came the expected slew of high profile titles, thrust upon us by big developers with flashy advertisements. Their fantasy - that we got stingy with shopping for family and friends, and instead put our money in their deep pockets. And since most gamers are easily swayed, it worked. As far as Wii and DS are concerned, Nintendo racked up a hefty Christmas bonus, with great sales from New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Wii Fit Plus, as well as Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story and The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the DS.

And now… the lull.

The start of a new year is often flaccid when it comes to marquis titles. But never fear, as I have found a few noteworthy games to look forward to in the coming months, and even some possible hidden gems.

Let’s start with No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle - sequel to the cult hit by designer Goichi Suda, creator of the unforgettable killer7 for the GameCube. In NMH2, you will once again take control of Travis Touchdown, who rejoins the UAA after a 3 year withdrawal and a significant drop in rank. According to Suda51, many improvements have been made for the sequel, from new combat moves and better use of the environment, to a wider array of katanas, such as dual wield katanas, and the “Giant Beam Katana”. Control of Travis’ new hog will also be smoother, and a larger amount of side-quests and bosses will integrate much better into the storyline than they did in the first game. No More Heroes 2 will release in North America on January 26th, with a European release currently only listed as early 2010. Europeans rejoice however, for the game is expected to be released in both a mild and “extreme” format, finally allowing the massive bloodshed to smear across your screen.

The next notable game is also by publisher Ubisoft, and another sequel, however this one has been completely renovated. The announcement of Red Steel 2 was met with heavy criticism, considering the first game of the series was highly anticipated and poorly received after being released alongside the Wii. Most people were expecting more sword control and a better storyline, but were left severely wanting. Red Steel 2 hopes to rekindle the fire in gamers to wield the Wii Remote as a blade, since Ubi have promised that it will utilise the Wii MotionPlus accessory: now every slight movement of your Wii Remote will be mirrored in the game to allow unhindered freedom and fluidity to your thrusts and slashes. The story itself is also completely different. Don’t expect to be battling through the ranks of the Yakuza in order to save your kidnapped girlfriend. This time, the scene is a “desert-bound, high tech metropolis”, and you play as the sole survivor of a clan called “The Protectors”, out to avenge the deaths of your clan members. The graphics have had a complete facelift, with the more realistic style being replaced with cell-shading, giving the game that comic book feel (think Borderlands). Sadly, gone is the blood, as developers are trying to simmer the rating in order to make the game available to a broader audience. Red Steel 2 will also not support any multiplayer function, as the focus of development is to bring a solid single player story to gamers. Red Steel 2 is set to be released in late March for both European and North American audiences.

A couple of potential sleeper hits you may want to keep your eyes on, now. Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces - coming out January 14th in North America, and sometime in February for Europe - joins the rare genre of flight combat games for the Wii. While confusing motion controls may be scrapped by most gamers for a more traditional analogue control, the smooth gameplay and fast action dog fights are sure to attract some gamers, especially fans of the Ace Combat series. For those fighting game enthusiasts out there, Capcom is releasing (not surprisingly) another game in the ‘Versus’ series, this one titled Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars. The game sports a cast of over 25 playable characters, including Capcom icons such as Ryu, Chun-Li, Mega Man and Viewtiful Joe, as well as members of the Tatsunoko cartoon series including Ken the Eagle, Karas and Gold Lightan. What separates this version from previous ‘Versus’ iterations is the blend of 2D and 3D graphic styles, giving both a classic feel with a modern flavour. Look for Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars in stores on January 26th and January 29th in North America and Europe, respectively.

DS owners have less to look forward to in the coming months. While a few lightly anticipated RPG games are making their way to the handheld, only Dawn of Heroes is currently marked for a European release, and currently only listed as later in the year. Therefore I may touch on that game in a future On The Horizon segment. For fans of point and click adventures, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth is probably the most anticipated game in a sea of mediocre-at-best titles coming soon. Fans of the series can look forward to more forensic and courthouse tools, with a new slew of crimes for Miles, long time friend and rival of Phoenix Wright, to tackle.

If you’re a fan of the venerable Pokémon brand, it’s time to get your nostalgia on. Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver are set to be released early this spring. The games are enhanced remakes of Pokémon Gold and Silver, originally released on the Game Boy. While no new catchable Pokémon are mentioned, the game will have a couple new features and mini-games which utilise the DS touch screen. Also, the game comes packed with a Pokéwalker, a pedometer accessory that connects to the DS and can (virtually) hold a Pokémon to increase its attributes.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it for the DS.

My recommendations, if you’re looking to cut a swath of destruction with your Wii Remote, the aforementioned Wii games should fulfil that desire. As for the DS, I would suggest picking up Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story or The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks if you didn’t already get them for Christmas, and take a nice slow time completing them, since nothing looks respectable on the horizon for the DS.


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- Sean Engemann

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