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Just the games – what’s new and noteworthy

- February 7th, 2013

“Which games are good? What are people playing?”

I’m asked these questions frequently.  There’s no shortage of gaming coverage out there, but it’s not always easily digestible for the casual crowd and weekend warriors. Subscribing to nerd culture podcasts strikes many gamers as a little intense. Still, they want to know what’s new and what’s worth their time.

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Tactical goodness – Fire Emblem: Awakening has launched to universal acclaim

At QMI, we’re just not the types to send you packing with a dismissive, nerdy sneer and a glib “Google it, bitch.” Nope, this new roundup will run bi-weekly (and maybe more often, if I can tear my eyes away from Ni No Kuni and Call of Duty long enough to put pen to paper) and suss out the need for a wider-angle view. So, what’s going on in games?

 

Picking a winner – it’s easy right now

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The Walking Dead: The Game. Don’t ruin Clem’s already difficult life.

Typically, the big games don’t drop in the early part of the year. But you may have caught bits of pieces of various outlets’ Best Games of 2012 coverage during the holidays (check out our own Steve Tilley’s Top Ten of 2012 here), and these lists make great resources for game shoppers in January-February. Hitting Gamestop with a list of acclaimed recent releases in your pocket just makes sense.

 

Wii U – do you need one?

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Wii U – It’s a thing

A new Nintendo console is always news. And the Wii U with its oddball, oversized touchscreen controller is more than a nifty gadget; it’s the home of Mario and Zelda for the next decade or so. That’s the real reason to pick one up.

We’ve yet to see the best the Wii U will have to offer —new consoles tend mature gradually as developers get their heads around the new platform. But must-have launch window games for the Wii U include Nintendo’s own New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Ubisoft’s surprising survival horror masterpiece ZombiU.

 

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ZombiU – Tense gameplay, showcases the Wii U’s abilities, has palace guard zombies in fuzzy hats.

Mario is Mario; bringing home the best 2D Mario since Yoshi’s Island (and first high-definition Mario) is a no-brainer; particularly if there are kids in your house. And ZombiU, another WiiU exclusive, is probably the most unique and tense survival horror title released in years – the genre needed it.

 

Boom – headshot

One of your friends is undoubtedly ‘fragging noobs’ right now. The busiest online multiplayer games in the console space (with a combined million-plus users online on any given evening) are, unsurprisingly, first-person shooters Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (PS3, 360, PC) and Halo 4 (360).

Each is the umpteenth entry in their respective franchises and neither really break new ground, but both are well-built and offer bang for the buck, and are still very much relevant.

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Black Ops II – guns, teamwork, and 12-year-olds from Cleveland calling you ‘mofo’ over the internet.

Think you’re cut out for online multiplayer? Suffice to say, it usually involves laughter, profanities, and getting shot in the head a lot until you learn the layout of the maps. You’ll wonder aloud why your opponents chose “Disabled_Cracker” and “Juggalo_Jester_420” as screen names. And wince when you realize you can probably guess. And with some like-minded bros with mics and headsets, online multiplayer becomes a social thing—loner in the basement gamer clichés, be damned.

 

What’s new

DmC: Devil May Cry (PS3, 360 and PC) aims to tangle your fingers and seize up your brain with frenetic and technical combo-based gameplay, and a twisted surreal Japanese design aesthetic.

This reboot has divided diehard fans of the Devil May Cry franchise due to creative decisions, mostly—the series’ protagonist, Dante, previously a world-weary stone-faced cyberpunk badass, has been re-imagined as a smug kid who looks like one of the dudes from Twilight doing a walk-on in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. Why would anybody do such a thing? It’s a head-scratcher for sure, but DmC is nonetheless a terrific action game which honors its roots. You can read Steve Tilley’s review here.

After multiple delays, a localized, voiced-in-English version of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (Playstation 3) has finally shipped to North American retailers, and RPG and Studio Ghibli fans are stoked. And frenzied. Special Edition copies of the game are sold out, and fetching several hundred dollars apiece on Ebay. Insane? Yes. Standard editions are in stock everywhere for 60 bucks.

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Ni No Kuni’s Oliver and Drippy

You may or may not be familiar with Studio Ghibli, but chances are you know someone who loves the absolute crap out of Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, internationally revered animated feature films by “The Disney of Japan.” Ni No Kuni is a joint between Ghibli and acclaimed Japanese game designer Level-5, and features signature Ghibli animations, a serviceable Pokemon-derived combat system, a well-told story that tackles complex themes, a main character you’ll come to care about unless you’re emotionally crippled, and a soundtrack infectious and uplifting enough that it could win an original score Oscar, if they gave those to games. If you have any love for RPGs, this is one you shouldn’t skip.

Also, Fire Emblem: Awakening (Nintendo 3DS) is the first ‘serious’ turn-based tactical RPG for the 3DS, and in stores now. It’s smart, deep, addictive, digestible in small bites (perfect for a handheld), and probably does a better job of easing newcomers into the complexities of the Fire Emblem franchise than any of the ten previous entries.

 

iOS Spotlight

Rayman Jungle Run, an endless runner platforming game, is Ubisoft’s first iOS home run, and Apple’s iOS Game of the Year. Easily the most beautiful iDevice game last year, Jungle Run is also likely the best mobile adaptation of a popular gaming franchise anyone has ever released. A $2.99 universal app, it works equally well on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

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Rayman: Jungle Run

‘Side Mission Chris’ Vandergaag loves hearing from Canadian gamers, both the core and the casual. Follow him on Twitter: @ButNoSeriously

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