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My Most Anticipated Titles of Spring

Spring is officially upon us and new seasons always bring some sort of excitement with them. The start of the baseball season happens, but won’t get into full swing for a few weeks. March Madness is winding down. The Peyton Manning saga is over. So people need something else to keep themselves occupied.

This is traditionally the time that we start to see some of the biggest titles of the year start to hit retail stores and this year is no exception. There are a number of games that many people are looking for and I thought I’d share with you some of the games that I’m most looking forward to playing this spring. All of these games are currently scheduled to come out in the months between April and June. Keep in mind, like with many games, they could be subject to delays that would push them out of this time frame, but as of now they are confirmed for a second quarter release.

 

Mario Tennis Open
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: May 20
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Nintendo sports games have always been fun. I don’t know that I’ve played a bad one of the bunch. Even Mario Sports Mix, which I would consider the worst, had some fun moments in it. The folks at Camelot have been working on this series for a long time now and they really know what they’re doing. They’ve managed to take the basic concept of each of the sports that they’re working with and build some of the most quirky experiences around it that you’ll find in a video game. If you know anything about the sport in question you know how to play the game, but they do things with the environments and the characters that you just can’t get if you’re playing Madden or Grand Slam Tennis or FIFA.

Mario Tennis Open is the first game in the Mario sports franchise on a Nintendo handheld since Mario Hoops 3 on 3 launched in 2006 and Mario Tennis: Power Tour for the GBA a year before that. It seems crazy that it’s been six or seven years since we’ve seen a sports game on the DS, but that’s given them plenty of time to figure out the best way to integrate the hardware. For people that like using the touchscreen you’re getting nice big buttons that are easy to read and easy to access. More traditional players will still have all of the control that you’ve come to expect in those games. I think the Circle Pad is going to add a level of precision that you just haven’t been able to get on a Nintendo handheld before and that will help the game play more like its console counterparts.

Of all of the Mario sports games the tennis franchise is easily my favorite. The announcement of this title brought a lot of excitement with it in my household and it’s easily one of the games I’m looking forward to most this Spring. The addition of online play is going to mean you’re never hurting for opponents.

Trials Evolution
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: April 18th

Red Lynx have become the master of this time trial style of play. They had a hit on their hands with the first Trials game on Xbox Live arcade. They then tried their hand at bringing a more fun, cartoony style of graphics to the WiiWare service and iOS devices. There’s no denying that they’ve mastered this type of game.

Trials Evolution will bring the franchise out of the dingy dirty warehouse and into the open environment. The use of the environment really works well for this type of game and they’ve proven that they can come up with some crazy track designs that at first appear impossible to race on. After getting in and playing the game you realize just how good those tracks can be. It’s not about pushing the throttle to the limits. You really need to know how gravity, momentum and physics work in order to successfully navigate the courses. Just because you’ve got the fastest bike doesn’t mean you will win these types of races.

Now they’re getting the game outside of the single player experience as well. The game will bring on four player, simultaneous play that just looks insane. You don’t have to worry about running in to the other racers. It really will be about just trying to put together the fastest run through a course you can make. There are definitely some competitive aspects to this game. Being the fastest person through the tracks will not only put you at an advantage in terms of time, but you can actually cause the other players to accrue penalties that will put them even further behind if they can’t keep up with you. We know they know how to create this type of game and do it well. We don’t have to wait long to see if they have another hit on their hands, but if the past is any indication we know that they do.

Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicle
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network
Release Date: Spring 2012

Where Red Lynx has mastered the time trial style of game, Zen Studios have come onto the scene and built one of the best pinball simulators we’ve seen in a long time. They take real world physics and combine that with things that you could only do in a video game; multi-tiered tables, interactive character battles and more. Pinball FX 2 is a platform where you can build your pinball library in an a la carte fashion. Many of the tables are available for purchase individually and it really gives you control over the amount of content that you have and want to spend money on.

They’ve already released on set of tables based on the Marvel license and, as Shelby can attest to, they’re pretty darn good. I would venture to say that there haven’t been many tables released to date that aren’t fun to play on. There are definitely some highs and some lows, but they’re all fun to play and figure out. This new batch of tables builds on some interesting points in the Marvel universe and it will be very interesting to see how they incorporate those events into the tables themselves.

Many of these tables aren’t just straight forward hit the ball back into the playfield as many times as you can. There are nuances to each of the tables, missions to accomplish, secrets to find. You’ll spend hour after hour just exploring all of the things a table can do. When you’re through with that you’ll spend even more time trying to get the highest score you possibly can. Then they give you these little carrots on sticks by showing you how you rank against your friends. You receive constant updates as to how close you are to people on your friends list and then another message once you finally pass them. All of the leaderboards are displayed prominently for all to see.

Heroes of Ruin
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: Spring 2012

Developer n-Space is probably most well known for working on the handheld versions of Activision’s Call of Duty and GoldenEye franchises. They also worked on the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance games and a number of licensed properties, mostly for the DS. This is going to be their biggest all-new project since Geist for the GameCube. It’s an RPG that is being developed in conjunction with Square Enix, who arguably knows a thing or two about the genre.

Graphically it doesn’t look like it’s going to push the system too hard. Where it will shine is in the network functionality that they are putting into the game. It will use StreetPass as a way for players to trade items in the game with each other. It will also have SpotPass functionality that will allow you to complete daily challenges and a website that will keep track of your progress and show other challenges to take on. For those who like to take on games with a friend it will also feature drop-in, drop-out co-op and voice chat, something I think Nintendo handhelds have been in desperate need of. The game itself appears to be a bit of a Diablo or Torchlight style dungeon crawler that will focus heavily on acquiring new gear, with more than 80,000 pieces of equipment to collect.

There’s a lot of promise to be had in a game like this. The style of play, the community features and the lack of very many big RPG experiences on the system could make this one of those breakout titles that Nintendo is looking for from third parties. Definitely keep your eye on this one.

Xenoblade Chronicles
System: Nintendo Wii
Release Date: April 6th

If you’ve been listening to the podcasts over the last few weeks you’re probably tired of hearing the Xenoblade Chronicles commercial we’ve been airing before every show. I can’t tell you how excited I am for this game. It started off as the “Project Rainfall” title that I was least interested in. I thought the other two looked like experiences I was more interested in. However after the early buzz from Europe started coming out and those high review scores started coming in I started paying more attention.

The Wii may be on its way out this year and many people, including myself, thought it was going to go out with a whimper following the release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. That doesn’t mean there weren’t titles that were going to get people interested and keep the system relevant until the Wii U is released. Nintendo, though, didn’t seem like they really cared and these titles were going to be lost to North American gamers. The announcement of Xenoblade Chronicles, from Monolith Soft, and The Last Story, from Mistwalker, meant that the Wii had some life left in it.

Xenoblade Chronicles is the type of action-RPG that Wii owners have been begging to get for a long time. It’s now up to us to show Nintendo that it was worth the trouble to bring it over here. I’m putting my money where my mouth is by picking up the title on April 6th. The reviews have shown that it’s good. The environments are expansive. Some of the biggest we’ve ever seen on the Wii. The combat looks like it is fast paced and exciting. The visuals, based on the trailers and gameplay videos I’ve seen are stunning. Even the voice acting appears to be some of the best we’ve seen on the system. It’s the first of my eagerly anticipated titles to get released in the Spring and you can bet I’ll be waiting as soon as the stores open to get it.

Diablo III
System: PC
Release Date: May 15th

I like Diablo. I played both of the previous games in the series as well as all the add-on content. I’ve bought Torchlight twice on two different systems. I’ve been following the news about Diablo III for a long time. I’m excited about finally getting this third entry in the franchise. The question I have is will my PC run the game? This is the one game on my list that I’m worried I might not get to play for a while.

By the time the game comes out it will have been almost four years since the game was announced back in 2008. I like the new visual style of the game. I like the new streamlining they’ve done with things like picking up gold and loot by just touching it rather than actively clicking on it. That alone might reduce some cases of carpal tunnel that the game could induce. The new skill system being attached to items is something that will take some getting used to.

The PvP portion of the game won’t be available at launch, but I’m not worried about that. I don’t play these games to fight against other players. This game is all about exploring the dungeons and picking up the fat loot that the mobs drop. I want to get into a melee and just click away at everything until it’s dead. If the game ever comes to consoles I’ll probably pick it up a second time like I did with Torchlight. I think this would be the perfect game to come to Wii U as the tablet controller could be used for a number of helpful things in the game.

Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: April 13th

This is one of those titles that I’m looking forward to only in the fact that I think it’s an interesting use of the technology. I will probably pick this game up only to see how it works, but I also have the feeling that if I did play it in my house I would have to immediately move out. If you’re a long time visitor of the site then you know I’m not the biggest fan of games that are designed to scare you. I haven’t played many of the Resident Evil games or Silent Hill games because they just freak me out after a few minutes. I’m always on edge thinking something is going to jump out at me and I just don’t like that.

Spirit Camera is a spin-off of the popular horror series Fatal Frame. It uses the Nintendo 3DS camera to change the environment around you and create a feeling that things are inhabiting your world that you didn’t think were there. It comes bundled with a diary that has AR imagery and facts about the game world, many of them will pop directly out of the book, but most of it seems like it will show you spirits living in your world.

There have already been a couple of games that have tried this concept on the 3DS, but they haven’t executed quite as well as people had hoped. Tecmo has been making this style of game for a while. The Fatal Frame series is hugely popular in Japan and it will be interesting to see how well they use the technology to pull off the effects. If they don’t work it will just be another cheesy augmented reality game. If they pull it off, though, it could be the start of a series that will have many people questioning whether what they saw was real or not. If that’s the case then I guess you could say that they’ve done their job well.

Darksiders II
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC
Release Date: June 26th (Xbox 360, PS3)

This game makes the list by virtue of the release date for the Xbox 360 and the PS3 games being on June 26th, but the developers have promised that it will be a launch game for Wii U. It also comes just a few days before the end of June and could be one that possibly gets pushed outside of the Springtime window. This follow up to the original Darksiders drops the character of War in favor of his brother Death, who looks a bit like a scary version of Skeletor. The original game was very much based on the gameplay elements of The Legend of Zelda series, but the producers say that this game is going to be very different as War and Death have very different styles of fighting.

Even if this was nothing, but a continuation of the first game I would be all over it. Darksiders brought some, pardon the pun, darkness to a Zelda style game and incorporated some elements of fighting from games like God of War, which made for a cool combination of styles that actually meshed very well. Death is going to be a faster character than War was. It is also being pitched as not necessarily a sequel, but more of a side story to that first game and will touch on some of the events that happened during War’s quest to clear his name. I’m waiting for the eventual release of a Darksiders game where you finally get four player co-op action with all the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

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These are the games that I’m most looking forward to in the next three months. Summertime will bring along a whole other batch of games that I want to play. Hopefully I’ll be finished with all of these before that time. What are some of the games that you’re most looking forward to as Spring fever starts to hit? Let us know below.

 

 

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