And you thought last month was crowded. Welcome to November, aka the perennial battleground for your holiday cash. Here you’ll find the biggest releases of the year, all crammed into an astonishingly short period of time. But which to buy and which to avoid? We’ll try to make that task a bit easier by providing this helpful list of just about everything that’s coming to a bustling, overcrowded retailer near you.
Pokepark: Pikachu’s Adventure
You might think this one is just for kids, but if you're a Pokemon fan you might want to at least consider PokePark Wii. It's easily the best-looking Pokemon game to date, and while many of the park's attractions (read: minigames) aren't anything special, exploring the large park's various themed zones (beach, meadow, lava, snow etc) and collecting Pokemon "friends" is surprisingly engrossing. The actual Pokemon really get to show their personalities too, and that's a side we rarely get to see in most Pokemon games. As the protagonist, Pikachu is undeniably adorable too, and he's well served by the graphical upgrade. It might not be too challenging, but as a relaxing, colorful game full of Pokemon we know and love, it could be worth a look.
God of War: Ghost of Sparta
God of War III might have ended his series, more or less, but perpetually furious monster-killer Kratos isn’t done quite yet. In an interquel set between his first and second games, the bald, ash-white murder machine sets out to track down his missing brother, stopping along the way to disembowel fiends in Atlantis, visit his adoring fans in Sparta and go head-to-head with Death’s daughter. According to our review, this is one of the weaker God of War games, being the first to score below a 9 – but that still means it’s pretty damned amazing, with the same vicious gameplay and careful attention to detail as its full-sized cousins.
EU release: November 5
Nothing quite sets off the nostalgia alarms in owners of the Nintendo 64 like GoldenEye – heck, even if you didn’t own an N64 back then, you probably played some four-player splitscreen with a group of friends. This Wii exclusive is going to re-tell the GoldenEye story using the screenwriter from the 1995 movie, but updating it for our post-millennium times and throwing in Daniel Craig to take the place of Pierce Brosnan. We’ve played it and we can say it looks damn slick for a Wii game, and it has quite a bit of the old feel of the original, but with all new levels. It features the now-iconic tiers of difficulty that don’t simply make the game harder, but expand on the levels by including more and more side objectives, increasing replay value. It also contains some impressive set pieces to beef up the action.
James Bond 007: Blood Stone
Platform: 360, PS3, PC, DS
EU release: November 5
Strangely releasing the same day as GoldenEye, Blood Stone is yet another Bond game starring Daniel Craig as the immortal British super spy. The difference? Stone’s a third-person shooter from Bizarre Creations (The Club, Blur, PGR) that wants to blur the line between game and brand new Bond film, with Hollywood voice acting, writing and musical scoring. It’s a formula EA used for 2003’s Everything or Nothing, which was met with reasonably high scores. But which to choose – the fresh new Bond or the Wii throwback to one of the best games of all time?
Ys: Oath in Felghana
One of GR’s pet series, Ys always delivers solid hack and slash action with light RPG elements and a kickin’ soundtrack. But if there was a runt in the series, it’d have to be Ys III on the SNES – lucky for us then that Oath in Felghana is a complete and thorough remake of that lesser Ys game, with all new art, music and voiceovers. It’s strange that XSEED is putting this out so close to Ys Seven (it’s barely two months old!), but if Felghana implements some of the tweaks that made Seven so fun, then maybe we can deal with a slight Ys overdose for once.
Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2
Platform: 360, PS3
DBZ games seem to come from an endless, unknowable source better left unsaid. Raging Blast 2, the latest in a long line, flexes its muscles with an astounding ninety playable characters. The art style has changed to a sort-of cel-shaded look, but with sharp black outlines similar to Borderlands. The battles have been charged up with transformations, flying debris, destructible buildings, and all manner of DBZ flair. New modes include Galaxy, which involves interconnecting pathways across the universe for a player-choice driven story, and World Tournament, where players will fight for the coveted number one rank in the world. The game is also going to include a thirty minute movie that fans have never seen before.
A portable version of the Move-enabled, augmented-reality PS3 virtual-pet sim (good lord, that’s a lot of hyphens), the PSP EyePet lets you project your very own fuzzy child-monkey thing onto your surroundings and play with it. More compelling than it sounds, EyePet lets players poke, pet or conjure toys for their virtual playbeast, and because it’s now portable, they can actually take it outside. The PSP version also boasts a few exclusive touches, like microphone-sensitive interactions and minigames (most of which appear to involve blowing on your pet to ruffle its fur or roll it into some bowling pins). If you’ve got kids – or just want something else you can use with the camera add-on that came with Invizimals – this is one to keep an eye out for (HURR DURR).
Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage
Platform: 360, PS3
Say what you will about Dynasty Warriors, but its “one man against a crowd” design is perfectly suited to Fist of the North Star, an anime that’s been screaming for a decent game adaptation ever since the years and years of crappy ones started. Equal parts Mad Max and Mortal Kombat, Fist of the North Star takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where giant, flamboyantly dressed steroid hulks fight over the last scraps of civilization with head-exploding martial arts.
More violent (and more varied) than the DW games, Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage more or less follows the plot of the anime epic, with players taking control of rapid-punching warrior Kenshiro (as well as Rei, Mamiya and several others) and smashing apart hordes of cannon-fodder baddies and big, ridiculous bosses. It’s also got motorcycles, loose girders that can be used as giant clubs and more gore than developer Omega Force’s usual fare, although the demo on Xbox Live and PSN is less brutal than we would have hoped. We’ll have to see how the full version turns out.
Kinect launch day!
Surely you have $200+ set aside for Kinect’s grand debut on November 4? The unit itself is available for $150 and comes with Kinect Adventures, plus you’ll be able to choose among Joy Ride, Sports and Kinectimals on the Microsoft side of things. Also releasing this day are Your Shape: Fitness Evolved (Ubi), Sonic Free Riders (Sega), Adrenalin Misfits (Konami), Motion Sports (Ubi) and the very very exercise Dance Masters (also from Konami). It has begun…
It’s like Dance Central walked into a house party, slapped away the Wiimotes from the blossoming soccer moms, took a sledgehammer to that one kid’s worn out dance pad and said, “Divas, to the dance floor, please.” Initial skepticism about yet another dance game was almost instantly blown out of the water when we realized that yes, unlike Just Dance (Wiimote waving) or the Dance Dance Revolution series (arrow stomping), you actually have to dance to do well. Using Kinect technology that actually works means you can’t just wildly fail around - the game can determine if you’re dropping it like it’s hot or just dropping it. With a little over 30 songs at launch and DLC promised soon thereafter, this may be the killer app of Kinect titles. Only pitfall? Other than the Battle mode where two players switch off in one song it’s essentially a single-player game.