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Holiday Wish List: 2004 Day Four

By Michael David Sims
30 November 2004 The finish line is in sight, but that doesn't mean we're slowing down. No, sir. So far we've seen white-hot sequels, plenty of classic NES games and an Atari anthology, an obscure Japanese game that is oddly addicting, and a slew of Nintendo titles if you can believe it. With so many great games set for release in the coming weeks, we're all going to be as broke as an ugly woman's mirror. But no matter, we're gamers we're used to it, especially around this time of year.

As it was with the previous three days, today we'll feature six more titles that are surefire time-sucks. Before that, however, I have to mention a few things (you know the drill by now):
All titles are listed alphabetically.
The games had to of been published between September 1 and December 24. If a game has yet to be published, it has to have a release date of December 24 or earlier.
Each game has been assigned a grade of 1 to 4. And those grades are as follows:

1 = Put it on your list, and hope you haven't been too naughty.
2 = Take the money aunts and uncles stuffed into cards, and buy it on the 26th.
3 = Beg your parents for it... even if you don't live with them anymore.
4 = Screw waiting! Buy it now!

"It's 106 miles to Chicago. We've got a full tank of gas and half a pack of cigarettes. It's dark and we're wearing sunglasses."

"Hit it."

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Title: Need for Speed Underground 2
Systems: GameCube, PS2 & Xbox
Rating: E
Release Date: November 15
Grade: 3

Almost one year to the day after the release of the hottest racing game of 2003, Need for Speed Underground returns with a much anticipated sequel. What's worrisome, however, is how quickly the follow-up was produced. It means either EA had this in the works while the first game was hitting the shelves last year, or they rushed the sequel into production. In which case, it might not live up to the high standard of the original. But don't fret. Rest assured that this is an EA racing title and after the success of Need for Speed Underground and this year's hit Burnout 3: Takedown, NfSU 2 will surly be worth every penny.

As much as the original Underground was about racing, it was also about customizing your ride. And Underground 2 carries on the gearhead tradition by allowing gamers to teak the 30-plus cars into an unfathomable 70 billion possible combinations!

Explaining the systems: Need for Speed Underground 2 will also be released on the PC and GBA, but those versions tend to be slightly different (look at the recent Spider-Man 2) so they were not listed.

Title: Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
System: GameCube
Rating: E
Release Date: October 11
Grade: 3

Chances are you didn't play the original Paper Mario, which was released during the final days of the N64. And that's a damn shame too, 'cause it's easily one of (if not) the best title for the system. (Settle down, you Zelda fanboys.) To many, what makes the Paper Mario franchise so endearing is the new take on Mario and the world around him. Gone are the majority of the platforming elements (though you do collect coins) and welcomed in are the RPG-style, turn-based fights (and side quests) that pit you and a partner against a series of familiar enemies. So what, right? It's an RPG featuring Mario. Big freakin deal! Ahhhh, you cynical gamers with your need for instant action and intolerance for prolonged fights.

You're right. It's an RPG. Big deal. What really sets Paper Mario apart is the graphical style that utilizes 3D technology to generate a pseudo-2D (almost 2.5D) world that appears as thin as paper. It sounds odd and a little silly I admit this but somehow it works to breathe new life into one of the oldest video game mascots.

And it isn't just a pretty new face for the mustachioed plumber. The paper-thin theme carries through the game, allowing Mario to fold himself into an airplane and boat in an effort to reach distant areas, as well as a tube (to roll under fallen trees and other obstacles) and flatten himself (to slip through impossibly tight cracks). Additionally, including all of the side quests, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is easily 30-plus hours of gameplay.

One more thing: For all those gamers (well, those few who actually played it) who want to credit Viewtiful Joe for coming up with this pseudo-2.5D look, know your gaming history and spy the original Paper Mario before you give credit to Capcom's highly underrated masterpiece. (I suppose Parappa The Rapper should be credited as well.)

Title: Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
Systems: GameCube, PS2 & Xbox
Rating: RP
Release Date: November 30
Grade: 4

Ubisoft has some balls, let me tell you! It takes serious resolve to release a sequel to what many consider to be the best game of 2003 if not of all time. Not only that, but to do so one year later is absolutely mind-boggling. In all seriousness, I don't know what I can say about the Prince of Persia series (especially The Sands of Time) that hasn't already been said. Either you've played it and quickly fell in love with the gameplay, storyline and stunning look, or have yet to purchase it. It's that simple. There isn't a gamer out there (or none I've spoken to) who doesn't bow down before the temple of Ubisoft, and, knowing this, the publisher/developer will most definitely take measures to insure Warrior Within is another Game of the Year candidate.

Explaining the systems: As it was with Need for Speed Underground 2, the next Prince of Persia title will also make its way to the PC and GBA.

Title: Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal
System: PS2
Rating: T
Release Date: November 2
Grade: 3

For the benefit of Nintendo, I'm going to repeat a single word one hundred times. (Hopefully they'll take a hint from this Sony/Insomniac trendsetter.) Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online! Online!

Title: Rumble Roses
System: PS2
Rating: M
Release Date: November 9
Grade: variable

Ahhhhh the game I've been looking forward to for what seems like my entire life. The game I spent many hours dreaming about. The game I played with wide eyes at E3. Yes it's the all-female wrestling title Rumble Roses. How I love thee! Yeah, yeah, yeah it's obviously TnA (and I don't mean Jeff Jarrett's wrestling promotion, or the tag team of Test and Albert), but buried beneath the jiggling bobbies and firm bottoms is a surprisingly well-rounded wrestling game that pushes the limits of the PS2. Which leads us to one of the downers: No tag team wrestling. Due to the limitations of the PS2 and the sheer power needed to run Rumble Roses, tag team bouts had to be dropped because the system (reportedly) couldn't handle it. Cry. Also, the game noticeably lacks a variety of matches. Again, most likely due to the limitations of the system. But all-in-all I think many gamers will be very surprised at how much fun they have while playing this Konami title.

Explaining the grade: Wrestling fans will be sure to grab it, as will anybody who just so happens to enjoy seeing women in tight, skimpy costumes. But casual gamers might be a little hesitant to purchase Rumble Roses either because they aren't wrestling fanatics or they don't believe a game filled with only female wrestlers is worth the $50.

Title: The Sims 2
System: PC
Rating: T
Release Date: September 14
Grade: 4

The sequel to the bestselling PC game of all time is finally here! YIPPY! And while it doesn't stray too far from the original, it's the first PC Sims game to be rendered in full 3D and adds family trees to the gameplay. What's the mean? Your characters will get old and die, and, if they just so happen to spawn, they will pass their DNA (and traits) to their offspring. So though you might be saddened to see your sim pass away (either because you killed them, thanks to a freak accident or because of old age), you can rest assured that his/her family (as long as you mate them) will live forever.

Because The Sims is primarily a PC franchise, there is a huge online community just waiting to share new clothing, household items, entire towns and even the coveted nude patch with gamers across the globe. And while this might sound boring to non-PC gamers (or haters of sim games), this opens up gameplay and allows you to reward (or torture) your sim in new ways.

Tomorrow: Another wrestling game (and it's online), two Star Wars games, a PC to Xbox port, the sequel to a game no one played and a comic book RPG.

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Day One :: Day Two :: Day Three :: Day Four :: Day Five


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The Edge of Forever 55


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