Holiday Guide 2005

Article

posted 12/13/2005 by The GN Staff
other articles by The GN Staff
It's that time of year again, where people storm stores looking for the perfect gifts for the loved ones in their life.  What do you do if you've got a gamer in your life? Gamers are a rare breed identified not only by what they like but what they hate.  To help frustrated shoppers we present the following holiday guide as a list of things that have our staff want to have in their grubby mitts by the end of the month.  The responses are varied (new writer Shawn sent in a mere paragraph while long time writer Cyril sent in something that could be considered a gaming manifesto).  We hope these lists help you find something that will help you spread some digital cheer this holiday season.

Shawn Kendrick - Staff Writer
An XBox 360 with all the trimmings (spare wireless controller and wireless network connection). Just as obviously a Sony PSP with a copy Clerks on UMD.  Of course I'll need a big new HD TV to fully enjoy that new XBox 360.  More importantly I'm going to need a lot of time to enjoy all this stuff so some personal QT would be nice.

Matt Mirkovich - Staff Writer
Fatal Frame 3: The Tormented
- After the last Fatal Frame game for PS2 and the stellar directors cut for the XBox it's about time a new one came out, and it's looking even freakier than the last two combined. Word on the street is that it also runs in progressive scan, sign me up!


Beatmania IIDX 10th Style - For the music minded importer out there, this is a fabulous must have game from our friends in the far east. 88 tracks of music with a new Beginners mode will teach every gamer that it's okay to be a fan of house music.

Deep Discounted Sleeper Titles - For twenty bucks or less right now you could get any of the following games: Shadow Hearts Covenant, Psi-Ops The Mindgate Conspiracy, Front Mission 4, Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, Phantom Brave. A lot of these games are still readily available at your neighborhood game store.

Slime Hori Controller - Remember those damnable slimes from Dragon Warrior? Well they are back, in controller form, it fits great in the hands and just looks cute. For those who are straight up collectors you can display it in its case for all the world to see.

X-box 360 Peripherals - You want to help out that friend who just bought a 360 for Christmas? Get him another controller, or a battery recharge kit, there are a tons of things out there to accessorize a 360 with, so help a buddy out and get him something he needs, maybe even a Gold Membership to X-box Live.

A new HD-TV - Really grasping for straws on this one, but if you've got a sweet-heart who's still rocking the 19' CRT television with outdated RCA inputs, maybe it's time to pick him up something new, or at least better than what he/she's got now. About four hundred bones will get you a good flat screen TV or a small but decent HD ready monitor that can double as a TV.

A Prinny plushie - It's a Prinny dood! If you loved them in Disgaea then you have to get them in plushie form. Available at the Nippon Ichi website, you'll find a new undead friend to go along with your teddy bears.



Tyler Sager- Senior Staff Writer

While I would be happy to see a shiny new Xbox 360 under my tree come Christmas morning, I’m just thinking that’s not going to happen.  Instead, my Christmas list consists of some great games that I somehow missed through the past year.

Actually, most of my wishlist titles are PS2 games this year, as I’ve managed to pick up most of the interesting PC games.  Shadow of the Colossus has been calling to me from the store shelves for a while now.  I’m a sucker for non-traditional games, and this beauty from the makers of Ico is almost irresistible.  I’d also like to hit the slopes again with SSX On Tour, as I’ve been a long-time fan of the series. 

To scratch my RPG itch, Dragon Quest 8 looks to do the trick.  I just need a dose of RPG goodness every so often, or I start to get cranky.  Moving to handhelds, I wouldn’t mind finding Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones for the GBA to help pass the time on the long holiday drives. 

On the PC side of things, there’s really only one title I feel I need:  Civilization IV.  Yes, I almost feel ashamed that I haven’t picked this gem up yet, but I’m sure that Santa will be kind this year. (note from the editor: Tyler just got his review copy in the mail so he's all good but this is still a game the strategy gamer in your life needs).

And finally, on my “it’ll never happen” list, I would be ecstatic if Square Enix made a surprise announcement about Kingdom Hearts 2 actually releasing before next year.  Wishful thinking, I know, but it is that time of year for miracles…



Cyril Lachel - Senior Staff Writer

Japanese Portable Games
It's been a great year for portable gaming, what with both the PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo DS finding themselves overloaded with amazing games.  Who can forget going through Advance Wars: Dual Strike, causing havoc in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, or racing through Burnout Legends and Mario Kart DS?  But as amazing as the portable line up was this year there's still room for quite a bit of improvement, especially when you look at the games the Japanese have been playing for months.

The good thing about the Nintendo DS and the PSP is that both are compatible with all games no matter where they're from; there is simply no region lockout when it comes to these games.  That means you can buy Japanese games online without a worry in the world, and those Japan-only titles make for a great gift.  Take Daigasso! Band Brothers for example, now here's a game that has been promised for the U.S. DS unit, but why wait when you can ask for it now as a holiday gift?  Heck, there are currently two different versions of this game available in the land of the rising sun, and us American gamers are left waiting for them to figure out what to do with the product.  The same could be said about Electroplankton, the quirky little "game" that is all about creating your own music and sharing it with your friends.  The game is going to get a U.S. release, but Nintendo is only going to sell it via their online store … not exactly a vote of confidence, if you ask me.

The PSP has a few notable Japanese games worth importing as well, including Guilty Gear XX #Reload, a port of the super-cool Xbox fighter.  This thing has been out for months in Japan and these days you can import it for half the price of your regular U.S. PSP game.  And the Japanese aren't alone; the European PSP launch brought us TOCA Race Driver 2: the Ultimate Racing Simulation (their subtitle, not mine).  If you're looking for a portable game you know the person doesn't own, then mining other countries for games is a brilliant idea!

Nintendo World Championship NES Cartridge
There are a lot of rare games in the world, a few that you might already own.  But chances are you don't currently have the Nintendo World Championship NES Cartridge, perhaps the rarest of all the NES titles.  This cart contains no more than three games (Tetris, Rad Racer, and the original Super Mario Bros.), and to make things even more pointless, none of these three games is the full version.  So what makes this thing so rare?  There just aren't that many copies of this "game" lying around.  You see, this thing was only given out to finalists at Big N's one and only Nintendo World Championship, a traveling event that featured dozens of game demos and a full-fledged game tournament.  Nintendo also managed to give a couple of these game carts out as prizes in their issues of Nintendo Power, but beyond that nobody else could buy them.

But these days you can buy anything … just as long as you have enough money.  On Ebay this Nintendo World Championship NES Cartridge is going for thousands of dollars, and you have to be lucky just to find somebody willing to sell this collectors item.  But if you have thousands of dollars you want to spend on something this valuable then what's going to stop you?  This would be one gift that any gamer over the age of 25 will cherish for the rest of their life, the rarest of gaming gems.  If you want to give the one gift that nobody else would think of, then this one NES cartridge is the gift of choice as far as I'm concerned.

A Break from Annual Sequels
Granted this is not something you can wrap up and give to somebody during the holidays, but if any of those guilty companies out there want to give me the ultimate holiday gift then a moratorium on annual sequels is a great place to start.  It's not that I don't enjoy a good sequel now and then, but it's when you have less than twelve months to come up with something bigger and better that you ultimately run into problems.  This is not a race, all we ask for is some time and effort to be put into these games so we aren't forced to upgrade around the same time every year.

I'm not talking about Madden and other sports games (those would be the obvious choices), but rather the Ratchet & Clank series, those good (but too frequent) Jak & Daxter games, Prince of Persia, and of course Tony Hawk's endless extreme sports titles.  It's not that I dislike these games; it's more of the fact that I don't feel the need to spend $50 on their games each and every year.  Enough is enough, it's time to give some of these franchises a year off.  And don't even get me started on the Dynasty Warriors, a series that seems to pride itself on releasing a new version every six months.  Just imagine how much better these games would be if their developers had more time to come up with new ideas and better level designs?  Annual sequels breed nothing but disappointment, just look at Prince of Persia: the Warrior Within, Jak X, and Tony Hawk's American Wasteland.

Super Grafx
If this list is about games, accessories, and the consoles, then it's about time you ask Santa for an NEC Super Grafx unit.  Don't get this thing confused with the Turbo Grafx, the long-dead NEC system that made its way to the U.S. in the late 1980s.  The Super Grafx is a whole different beast, even though it will play the Turbo Grafx games (well, it'll play the P.C. Engine games, the Japanese version of the Turbo).  With only a half dozen games it's easy to collect each and every one of them … easy if you have enough money to pay the high prices you see on Ebay.

There aren't that many Super Grafx units out there, which makes this one of the rarest consoles ever to be created.  The games are primarily shooters (including stunning ports of Capcom's 1941, Darius Plus, and Battle Ace), but it's the port of the arcade smash Ghouls 'N Ghosts that really makes this system worth owning.  Sure the game is also on the Genesis, but it's the Super Grafx version that everybody drools over.  Unlike the Nintendo 64DD, Nintendo's rare Japan-only disc drive for the N64, the games on the Super Grafx are actually pretty good and well worth the investment.  The high prices might scare you, but this is one system that is only going up in value.  If you know somebody who is a collector of old game systems, then this is the gift for them!

Lumines
After all this talk about dead systems, Japanese games, weird NES carts, and annual sequels, I figured it would be nice to recommend something that doesn’t take a lot of time and effort to track down.  I recommend Lumines; perhaps the best puzzle game since the original Tetris hit the scene.  That compliment has been bandied around for years, but it's hard to deny the greatness of Tetsuya Mizuguchi's masterpiece.  This is one game that will have you going for hours at a time without noticing it; it's more addictive than any other game that came out this year.  It offers a simple concept, but once you've mastered its core mechanics you'll be spending the rest of the time working on improving your score and skills.

Despite being released alongside high profile racing games and licensed fare, Lumines managed to be the most endearing PSP launch title; a game that I'm still thinking about all these months later.  It's not just the best launch title, but Lumines is easily the single best PSP game on the market, which may stun people who bought the system primarily for the great graphics and fast game play.  Your average Lumines game is a roller coaster ride of excitement, going from slow paced to full on tense excitement all in a few seconds time; it rewards you for thinking ahead and not second guessing your actions.  Best of all, Lumines features a nice collection of songs, each manipulating the look and feel of the level.  A lot of people ignored this in order to pick up Ridge Racer, but now that you've grown tired of that game's limited replay value, it's time to get sucked into one of the most challenging games of the year.  This is one idea that is so simple it's shocking that nobody else had tried it before; it's easily one of the most exciting games you can play.  If you don't already own it, it's time to hit the mall and let Santa know which PSP game you want next.



Charles Husemann - Editor in Chief

God of War (PS2) - I don't own a PS2 but I almost bought one to play this game after playing through most of the demo at Gamestop earlier this year.  The game is aimed at an adult audience (lots of blood and violence) but it does so with purpose rather than just adding the elements in for attention. 

Guitar Hero (PS2)- A game that lets your rock out and comes with a cool guitar controller?  How can you beat that?  This game just has cool, party fun written all over it and it's something that everybody can enjoy.

Sony Playstation Portable - I know the DS seems to have more(better?) games right now and there's a certain part of me that longs to play Nintendogs but the PSP is just pure geek sexiness and the games will come.  Besides the obvious gaming and multimedia goodness that Sony packs into each unit the system is the most modified system out there which means all kinds of cool home brew stuff is and will be on the market for the system.

Lego Star Wars (Xbox) - This isn't a game I would necessarily buy for myself but something that I would play the hell out of being a Star Wars nut and Lego fan.

Shadow of the Colossus (PS2) - One of those few games that helps show video games as an art form rather than just another mundane form of entertainment. 

Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse (Xbox, PC) - A fun game from start to finish (I'll have a review up soon I promise) with a great sense of humor and an amazing soundtrack. It's a bit on the short side but it's a lot of fun while it lasts.

Logitech G5/G7 Mouse (PC)- The gaming mouse market really grew in 2005 and you're not going to find a better mouse than the G5 or G7 from Logitech.  You probably could live with the corded G5 but if you really someone you might plunk down the extra ducats for the wireless G7.

Mad Wax/Xtrac Gaming mouse pads (PC) - If you're looking for a cool stocking stuffer for the PC gamer in your life then you might want to check out the fine line of gamer gadgets from Xtrac.  I would avoid the soft fabric mouse pads and go for one of the nice hard plastic optical pads and throw in a little bit of the Mad Wax to go with it.

Glovesplay (Xbox, PS2)- These return from my list last year and they make great stocking stuffers for the gamer in your life.  The soft suede controllers reduce stress on your hands and absorb sweat which is perfect for those long gaming sessions.