Last quarter of year ushers in flood of video games
By Mike Antonucci
Knight Ridder News Service
Unless you live and breathe video games, you'll have a hard time navigating the deluge hitting stores for the rest of the year.
There's no way to be certain about how compelling or disappointing many games will be. So let's try to make it simple: Here are a promising dozen a starter list, no more and no less.
After the titles, you'll see the most specific dates given for when games will ship to stores by "platform" (game machine or computer).
"Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand" (this week for Game Boy Advance). A candidate for game of the year. A solar sensor in the game cartridge makes players better vampire hunters when using their GBAs in good sunlight. It's an inspired innovation from Konami game designer Hideo Kojima. Age rating: Everyone.
"Jak II" (Oct. 14, PlayStation2). An ambitious sequel to 2001's "Jak and Daxter," a searching-maneuvering-fighting game with terrific graphics and clever humor. "Jak II" is darker and more adult, though still dosed with wit, and features a futuristic city whose environment is 20 times larger than the biggest level in the original game. Age rating: Teen.
"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (Nov. 4 for PS2, Xbox and GameCube, plus a GBA version). Visually lush with pounding action, like the films. The game seems too elaborate for its save system, but Electronic Arts is re-creating an epic sense of scope. Age rating: Teen.
"Eye Toy" (Nov. 4, PS2). A device more than a game a camera that plugs into the PS2 and puts you, the player, on the TV screen interactively. But it's mainly about playing games and will come with a dozen. Watch yourself slapping ninjas who appear around you. Age rating: Everyone.
"Nancy Drew: Danger on Deception Island" (last week for PCs). Another in Her Interactive's well-established series of nicely designed mystery games that serve a generally underserved audience of girls. Age rating: Everyone.
"Mario Kart: Double Dash!!" (Nov. 17 for GameCube). A huge game in the Nintendo universe. It's kart-racing in the Mushroom Kingdom with Baby Mario and Baby Luigi, among others. You pair up characters who divide driving and battling duties, with the ability to switch them back and forth. Age rating: Everyone.
"Viewtiful Joe" (Tuesday for GameCube). Sounds strange, doesn't it? In some ways, this Capcom game is strange. You play as a fighting hero in a cartoon environment, changing the "view mode" while executing whirligig moves. Age rating: Teen.
"Counter-Strike" (mid- to late November, Xbox). This intensely violent, cult combat game for computers as challenging as it is gripping is gaining broader popularity as it heads for console gaming. The Xbox version will offer the ability to play online through the Xbox Live network but also will have a single-player mode. Age rating: Mature.
"XIII" (early October for PCs, late October for PS2 and early November for Xbox and GameCube). The publisher, Ubisoft, has a title that might rival the "Jak II" experience: "Prince of Persia" (November for consoles and PCs). But "XIII," which makes a French comic book into a first-person shooter, is more intriguing. The voices (Adam West, David Duchovny and Eve), comics-style graphics and adult violence could meld into a distinctive game ... or a mishmash. Age rating: Mature.
"True Crime: Streets of L.A." (early November for PS2 and Xbox) and "Tony Hawk's Underground" (Oct. 29 for PS2, Xbox and GameCube). Comparisons between "Grand Theft Auto III" and "True Crime," which maps 240 square miles of Los Angeles, will be inevitable. Age rating: Mature. And yes, I'm cheating by making this a tie between two Activision titles and adding "Tony Hawk's Underground," a moderately subversive take on skateboarding games. Age rating: Teen.
"Karaoke Revolution" (Nov. 4 for PS2). Another game from Konami, whose deep lineup includes a November "Castlevania" release for PS2. Turning your game console into a karaoke machine by using a microphone-connected headset to sing lyrics for an animated character. Age rating: Everyone.
"Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike" (Oct. 21 for GameCube). Plain and simple: another reason to own a GameCube. Age rating: Teen.