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Monday, May 5, 2008
New releases for the week of 2008-05-05...

As much as we enjoy going off the beaten path here at Moving Pixels, it’s difficult to go off the beaten path when the beaten path is just about the only path available to travel.  Case in point: After a couple of weeks with surprising depth in the release list, we’re back to the vast desert wasteland of game releases.  As is the case in most vast desert wastelands, however, there are a few oases to be found.


Of note this week:  Boom Blox is upon us!  Steven Spielberg’s first foray into the gaming arena is so Spielbergian that it’s got his name splashed across the top!  Actually, the only thing identifiably Spielbergian about Boom Blox is the explosions.  There are lots of explosions, though.  I have to admit, I know very little about what this game is going to be like and how it is going to be played save the Wikipedia article on it and the various major game site previews that are out there, but I do know that you can’t really go wrong when you have lots of explosions, blocks, and rectangularly-shaped animals populating your game. 


Did anyone else know that Speed Racer was a Nintendo exclusive?  When did that happen?


Regardless, the only other game on this particular list that might have had a shot of challenging Boom Blox as the week’s most highly-anticipated game has to be R-Type Command, another North American release of a somewhat obscure Japanese game (R-Type Tactics) by the mighty and venerable Atlus.  Granted, it’s a game with long-running and storied franchise behind it, but the boost provided by history is almost entirely negated by the fact that the entire history of R-Type is as a space shooter, while R-Type Command is a turn-based strategy game.  Still, the chance to fight Giger-isms in turn-based combat is just too much win to pass up.


The rest of this week’s releases (you know, the three or four I didn’t mention) are after the break…


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Monday, Apr 28, 2008
Kotaku's gone back to the WiG, so we're keeping the TWiG...Here are the new releases for the week of 2008-04-28.

You know, you have to give Iron Man some credit.  Not only is Sega’s adaptation of the soon-to-be blockbuster film being released on every single major console and portable system this week, but it single-handedly ensured that every single system had at least one game to show off this week (thus avoiding the fate of withstanding a surely snarky synonym for “zero” in its release column).  The demo that Sega released on Xbox Live isn’t even all that bad, even if its all-too-short play time does cut out right when it seems as though the game might just get exciting.


No matter—if you’ve been at all privy to the world of gaming journalism in the past week, you know that anything on this list that isn’t Grand Theft Auto IV is being seriously, seriously overshadowed by Grand Theft Auto IV.  You’ve seen the exclusive review (and while I won’t begrudge them for it, I hope IGN thought long and hard about dishing out that 10 when they knew they’d be under scrutiny for being the only outlet allowed to break the dated review embargo that the rest of the media has had to follow), and heck, you’ve probably seen the rest of the reviews so far as well.  That Metacritic wall o’ 100s is awfully impressive, if not altogether unexpected.


The sheer magnitude of Grand Theft Auto IV‘s release is enough to make one wonder: why in the world would Nintendo choose to release Mario Kart Wii a mere two days before perhaps the most highly-anticipated release of 2008?  One could make the argument that the audience for the two games is different, but it intersects in enough places that the buying public for Mario Kart can’t help but be affected, at least a little bit.  One could also say that Mario Kart is a strong enough franchise that it’ll get its sales over the long-term, and it will be fine.  This is probably true—and I do expect that Mario Kart will sell gobs of product and little plastic wheels regardless of what other releases happen to coincide with its own—but still.  Mario Kart Wii got one, maybe two days of serious publicity when the journalists got their copies, only to be swallowed almost immediately by the Grand Theft Auto behemoth.  Pushing off the release (or moving it up, even) by a week or two might have been able to ensure a solid stream of publicity surrounding its release.  As it is, it’s going to have to rely on an admittedly sizable established fanbase.


Of course, one could also argue that that fanbase has been what has been sustaining Nintendo all along, but it wouldn’t hurt to try like hell to expand that fanbase, especially when there is such a sizable new install base just sitting there, waiting to be taken advantage of.  Nintendo apparently sees Mario Kart as a “bridge game”—that is, a game that could help casual players transition to more involved gaming experiences—and having had a day or two to play the game, this makes sense, given that it had the four game-playing members (that is, myself, my wife, and my kids) playing a game together for the first time since Wii Sports first invaded our home and free time.  Still, it’s not going to be a bridge for anyone who doesn’t notice its release.


Other releases this week include the happily budget-priced SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1 (a much cheaper way to get your Neo Geo fix than the Virtual Console, as it turns out), and Konami’s contributions to the Nintendo DS’s continued dominance as a lifestyle machine (as opposed to a simple game machine), called Let’s Yoga! and Let’s Pilates!.  I would be sarcastic about these things, but I may buy them.  Somehow, these activities seem more palatable when you plug them into a DS and pretend they’re games.


Perhaps I’ve said too much.  Go take a look at this week’s release list, after the jump…


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Sunday, Apr 20, 2008
New releases for the week of 2008-04-21...

Oh, I liked “TWiG” so much.  The mixed capitalization, the emasculating implications…it was just simple enough to be catchy.  Of course, I can say that now that Kotaku, perhaps the most popular gaming blog out there (and the gaming representative of the Gawker empire), has gone and co-opted it.


Now, I’m sure you could go ahead and find fifty instances of other places that had used “TWiG” as an acronym meaning “The Week in Games” before I did.  That’s not the point.  The point is, that before last night, I didn’t know of any of those, and I was much happier then.  Got any ideas for new acronyms?  FTW (For the Week)?  GTFOA (Games to Find Out About)?  Drop ‘em in the comments.  Bonus points (to be redeemed later) go to something that could be a potential internet meme.


This is the Wii Wheel.  It's so…white.

This is the Wii Wheel.  It’s so…white.


As for this week’s games, well, it looks like a sparse week, but there are so many potential winners here that I hardly know where to go for something to highlight.  The elephant in the room is Mario Kart Wii; of all of the games coming out this week, that one’s bound to sell the most, and it’s surely yet another Nintendo-sponsored reason to own a Wii.  Still, it loses points for a) having been done before, and b) foisting the Wii Wheel upon the world.  I’m a Wii apologist, and I can admit that.  I’ll defend it to the death, insisting it’s “next-gen” (whatever that means) to my bloody death.  The habit that even Nintendo itself has latched onto of releasing plastic shells for their innovative control interface, thus removing the necessity of imagination to go with the waggle?  I taste bile in the back of my throat every time I read about one of these things.  Images in my mind of millions of Wii Wheels in landfills amongst 3rd party plastic bats, rackets, and fishing poles make me die a little bit inside.


As a rhythm game fiend, Battle of the Bands looks like fun (if a little confusing), and Square Enix is at it again, releasing The World Ends With You worldwide, to the rejoicing of millions (or, at least, thousands) who have salivated over the game for the nine months it’s been out in Japan.  Still, it’s impossible to overlook the PS2’s sole release this week: Persona 3: FES Edition.  Why, after two weeks of highlighting old games, would I choose to go that route one more time?  A number of reasons, actually:


1.  It might have the highest quality-to-sales ratio of any game released last year, aside from perhaps Zack & Wiki.  Seriously, almost nobody played this thing, and GameSpot, regardless of what you think of them, still saw fit to name it best RPG of ‘07.


2.  30 hours of brand new content.  Seriously—30 hours.  The “expanded” content of the FES edition is an entire new chapter for the game, along with a tweaked version of the original.  If you hadn’t played the original, there is officially no excuse to miss this unless you break out in hives at the mention of RPGs.


3.  You get this 70-hour beast for $29.99.  This is why the continued vitality of the PS2 is a great thing for gamers.


What are you looking forward to this week?  Are you saving your cash for GTA-day next week?


As always, the full release list can be found by clicking on that handy little “continue” link, right…there:


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Monday, Apr 14, 2008
New releases for the week of 2008-04-14...

In summary:


Three systems (the PS2, PSP, and Xbox 360) have absolutely nothing coming out this week, other than whatever not-yet-announced games will be occupying the weekly downloadable slots.  The PS3’s only release is a game that’s not finished yet, released so that gamers can be offered the “privilege” of playing 1/3 of a game for 2/3 of the price (a detail that will not at all deter the fans of the admittedly killer Gran Turismo series).  The DS features three games that actually feature exclamation points as part of their titles.  The PC mostly gets games that console players have picked up, played through, and forgotten about at this point, along with some expansion sets.  And the Wii…well…


The Wii version of Okami

The Wii version of Okami


My game of the week last week was a re-release, too, so I hesitate to do this, but no matter how many times I look over this list, nothing sticks out like Okami does.


Yes, it’s been out for a year and a half.  Yes, it was all over the best of ‘06 lists when it came to awards and all that.  Still, it’s impossible to ignore a game that many said outshined The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess when it came out, and was certainly pulled off with more originality.  Anyone who loves the Zelda series is nuts if they haven’t tried Okami yet, and now it’s appearing for a system that it seems all but made for, what with the painting dynamic that drives so much of its gameplay.  Add in enhanced visuals (Okami in 16:9 does sound appealing) and a reduced price ($39.99), and you have one of the most appealing Wii purchases yet seen on the system.


Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis for the PC

Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis for the PC


In other games, the newly-enabled capability of the Wii’s Virtual Console to handle Sega Master System titles means that Fantasy Zone can actually be released, so now I may actually play it in a form that goes beyond the easter egg in Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf.  Also, for you puzzle-solving types, Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis on the PC looks like it has some serious potential as well, and you probably won’t need a graphics card update to play it.


The rest of the week’s releases…after the break:


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Monday, Apr 7, 2008
New releases for the week of 2008-04-07...

This week’s release list looks a lot like last week’s release list.  That is, it’s pretty sparse.  There are, once again, no huge games coming out this week, and a solid half of the week’s releases are on the PC (and half of those are re-releases of things that most fans will have been playing for months already anyway), games that are still readily available elsewhere.  Portal, as a matter of fact, could be the best three hours you ever get for 20 bucks, but it’s a game whose time has come and gone, one of the defining games of 2007, a year when our faith in the FPS was challenged and renewed.


As it turns out, my pick of game to watch for the week is a re-release as well, though this one’s been awfully tough to find for quite some time; that’s right, this is the week that the long-promised Ikaruga will be re-released in HD form for the Xbox Live Arcade.


Words can barely express how excited I am about this.


Ikaruga, for those who see little more than a seven-letter, four-syllable Japanese word (which, incidentally, means “spotted dove”) in the name, is a variation on the “bullet-hell” style of space shoot-‘em-up that has come to prominence in the last few years.  While it retains the property of throwing massive amounts of tiny little bullets at you, this version of the game gives you a defense:  Each bullet (and each enemy) has a “light” or a “dark” polarity.  Your ship can switch between the two.  If you are the same polarity as the bullet that hits you, you’ll absorb it, building energy that you’ll be able to use for a special attack.  The downside is that enemies of the same polarity will take more shots to destroy.  Conversely, switching to the opposite polarity of your enemies allows you to kill them quicker, but also leaves you open to death.


Master developers Treasure (who I’ll hold a candle for ‘til my dying day thanks to Gunstar Heroes) take this mechanic and run with it, often forcing the player to switch on a whim from one polarity to another just to stay alive.  This gameplay style makes the game slightly easier than the traditional bullet-hell shooter, but “slightly easier” translates to “reasonable” when you’re talking about this much stuff on the screen at once.  Add in a bonus-producing combo system and some of the most intimidating bosses out there, and you’ve got a classic.  If you have never played the GameCube or the (Japanese import) Dreamcast version of Ikaruga, a slow release week like this one is the perfect time to give it a go.  At a mere 800 Microsoft points ($10), there really is no excuse to stay away from it, unless shmups cause you to break out in hives.


Honorable mention this week goes to Baroque, whose distinct art style and vaguely gothic storyline will show up on the Wii and PS2 this week thanks to those geniuses at Atlus.  Those of you waiting for a dungeon crawler for the Wii, well, your time has finally come.


As always, the full list of this week’s releases is after the jump…


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