March 2009 | Vol. VIII - No. 3
Video Games Enthrall With Tales and Technology
Halo, Dragon Quest and Others Keep Gaming Strong
New technology and expanding storylines are drawing in fans of video games this year. The best and the brightest are those that grasp the prevailing technology and take players to the worlds they want to visit.
Beyond wowing players with great graphics, sound and game play, the best games invite players into a deep and engrossing tale.
“That's why I like role-playing games,” Adam Taliercio, an avid gamer from Avon, N.J., told TDmonthly Magazine.
He anticipates the next chapter in Square Enix’s Dragon Quest saga, “Dragon Quest IX: Protectors of the Sky,” to be a strong seller. It's due out Dec. 11 for the Nintendo DS. The series is legendary in Japan, and has had a following in the states since 1986, when it debuted on the original Nintendo Entertainment System as “Dragon Warrior.”
“For me, ‘Dragon Quest’ is a pretty big deal. I've nerded out to ‘Dragon Quest’ since I was 8 years old,” said Taliercio, now 26.
Another game that prides itself on story is “Star Ocean: The Last Hope,” also from Square Enix, which was released stateside at the end of February for Microsoft’s Xbox 360.
TIES TO NEW TECH
Video games continue to improve in depth and versatility, growing as fast as expanding technology allows.
“Games have to take advantage of the hardware that's available,” Taliercio said.
The Nintendo Wii, of course, turned heads because the motion-sensing remote controls presented a physical change to how games were played.
“Wii Sports Resort” will take advantage of the MotionPlus accessory for the Wii Remote. This item plugs into the base of the remote and works with it to make the sensors more precise. For example, when a player twists the controller, he'll be working the throttle of a jet ski.
Conduit, a first-person shooter by Sega, also to be enhanced by MotionPlus, will also be released on the Wii.
MotionPlus, shown at E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, last July, has created a stir online and “has the potential to change things,” Brian Crecente, managing editor of gamer’s magazine Kotaku.com, told TDmonthly.
“About halfway through the year you'll see titles that use [it],” he said.
VIRTUAL GAMING EXPANDS
In addition to accessories that capitalize on new technology, many games take advantage of online capabilities to move gaming to the next level.
“An online experience can make a really good game into a great game,” Taliercio said. “[Microsoft’s] ‘Halo’ was a pretty good game, but it becomes a new world online.”
“Rock Band” from Electronic Arts is another example, he said, where players can use a matchmaking program to seek out virtual band members with similar musical tastes.
While ‘Rock Band’ has a strong line-up of songs, additional downloadable songs are available online, giving players more for their money and driving sales after the initial release.
“A lot of people in the industry are going to be looking at that,” Crecente said. “You need to have a big enough install base” to be successful, but it could open doors. It could pave the way toward making serial content for games.
“You'd no longer have to worry about a game that takes three years and millions of dollars to make,” he told TDmonthly.
“Fable II” from Lionhead Studios took advantage of this model. It was released in October for the Xbox 360, and additional downloadable content was available in January.
A thriving online community supports Sony’s “Little Big Planet” for PS3, allowing people to create and share their own content. Rockstar Games' “Grand Theft Auto IV” will also have content expansion packs.
SEQUELS AND REBIRTHS
Past the run-and-gun action upon which “Halo” was built, “Halo Wars” is a real-time strategy game for the 360.
Also appearing will be “Halo ODST: Orbital Drop Shot Trooper” — “the retelling of the Halo storyline, from the perspective of a grunt,” Crecente said.
“When the original ‘Killzone’ [from Sony] came out,” he continued, “the expectation was that it would be a ‘Halo’-killer. It would become the shooter franchise for the PlayStation. It didn't really deliver. It was too vanilla to break loose.”
However, buzz is growing for the sequel.
“There's the rising expectation that it will be the killer app for the PS3. There are indications that it will help move consoles,” he said, the way Halo did for the Xbox.
Other games getting the sequel treatment or being recreated for modern audiences include “Resident Evil 5” from Capcom and “Wolfenstein” from Activision.
See these and other video games below:
Instead of watching a story unfold in a game, players write the story. Decisions they make in the game affect the game world, and how people in towns view you as your reputation starts to grow. During the sword and sorcery tale, the adventurers can even choose to marry and start a family. The Xbox 360 game is a sequel to Fable, which sold more than 3 million copies. Additional quests are downloadable, adding extra chapters to the story. Launch date: October 21, 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22633 (added 2/27/2009)
A prequel to the classic Halo games, “Halo Wars” is a strategy game where players command armies against the alien Covenant which is threatening to obliterate mankind. In story mode, players join the crew aboard the “Spirit of Fire” starship, guided by Serina, an artificial intelligence. Various troops and vehicles all have their own strengths to be pitted against the alien menace or against other online players in skirmish mode. The game was crafted by Ensemble Studios, known for its “Age of Empires” game franchise. According to Microsoft, “Since inception, 'Halo Wars' was explicitly designed to cater to console gamers and bring to the Xbox 360 a genre that has typically been played on the PC.” Launch date: March 3, 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22632 (added 2/27/2009)
"'Gears of War 2' is the highly anticipated sequel to the 5.5 million-selling blockbuster action game and one of the most popular Xbox games in history,” according to Microsoft. The sequel continues the original story, where humanity is threatened, and troops must gear up to save the world. Developed by Epic Games, the third-person shooter boasts extreme action against a backdrop of an engaging and personal story. Eight different mulitplayer modes allow players all over the world to duel with each other or team up. Launch date: November 7, 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22631 (added 2/27/2009)
The year is 2064, and World War III has left Earth in tatters. The future looks bleak, unless, of course, you're a star-spanning adventurer like Edge Maverick, who is fighting to save humanity from the brink of extinction, with a little help from his friends. This latest installment in the "Star Ocean" franchise is actually a prequel to the series of games. It is available for the Xbox 360. Launch date: February 24, 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22630 (added 2/27/2009)
"Wii Sports Resort is a new collection of fun sports games anyone can pick up and play,” Nintendo proudly proclaims. The sequel to Wii Sports will come bundled with the MotionPlus adapter, which enhances the receptivity of the Wii Remotes. This promises to add great depth and accuracy to movement in games involving sword play, cruising on a water scooter, and throwing a Frisbee-like disk to a dog. Launch date: Spring 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22629 (added 2/27/2009)
Just as the Nintendo Wii redefined game control, the upcoming Wii MotionPlus accessory will push it even further. The accessory attaches to the end of the Wii Remote and tracks players' arm position and orientation. Every slight movement made with the wrist or arm is rendered identically in real time on the screen.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22628 (added 2/27/2009)
What begins as a political search for terrorists in Washington, D.C. quickly escalates into a search for a threat of a distinctly alien nature. But players are not alone, as they can build a team of up to 16 players in this first-person shooter. Participants choose from a variety of weapons and gadgets that are literally at their fingertips with the use of the Nintendo Wii's Remote. Launch date: May 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22627 (added 2/27/2009)
Every kid has said to friends “Let's start a band.” This game delivers on that, even if there isn't a garage to play in. From AC/DC to The Who, players take turns on guitar, bass guitar, drums and vocals, covering 84 favorite songs. Online features enable people to form bands from across the globe. The game has broadened since its initial release with downloadable songs and a thriving Internet community. Launch date: December 18, 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22626 (added 2/27/2009)
As Sony proudly proclaims: “If you can think of it, you can create it; if you can create it, you can share it; if you can share it, you can play it — and watch our colorful LittleBigPlanet grow and diversify!” Players can run their characters through 50 levels created by Sony, and can also create their own levels and customize the main character. A unique online feature allows players to share their creations with others in this award-winning game for the PlayStation 3. Launch date: October 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22625 (added 2/27/2009)
This is the fourth installment of the gritty game known for its violence and flagrant disregard for the law. This time, players take control of Niko Bellic, a recent emigrant to Liberty City, who quickly gets embroiled in the danger-and the rewards-of a lethal life. Players can take a lot of liberties in Liberty City. There is a lot to see and do in town, and it's not for the faint of heart. It is available for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Launch date: April 29, 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22624 (added 2/27/2009)
Yet again the alien Covenant strikes. This time, players hit the ground running. As one of the Orbital Drop Shot Troopers, they are the front lines of combat, looking for clues behind the destruction of an entire city. The events take place prior to Halo 3, and serve as a new way for players to be immersed in the best-selling Halo series. The game is for Xbox 360, and is supported by a thriving Internet community where people can play online together and customize their game. Launch date: September 30, 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22623 (added 2/27/2009)
When a game states that it is playable by up to 32 players, you know it's going to be big. This game continues the story of interplanetary conflict fought in the trenches by well-armed troops. For much of the game, your character fights alongside other troops controlled by the computer. In several multiplayer modes, battle alongside — or against — your friends in various missions. This first person shooter is available on the PlayStation 3. Launch date: Feb. 27, 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22622 (added 2/27/2009)
Recurring character Chris Redfield returns to the lead role in the latest chapter of this survival horror franchise that has spawned big-budget film treatments. In a multiplayer mode, friends can join in, taking over other characters to help in the fight. Redfield must voyage to Africa, where a bioterrorism threat has turned people and animals into mindless monsters. It's for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Launch date: March 13, 2009.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22621 (added 2/27/2009)
This exclusive release for the handheld Nintendo DS continues a line of epic role-playing games that has moved more than 46 million units worldwide since it debuted on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986. The "Dragon Quest" line has defined role-playing games, and features all the classic elements, like leveling up and battling monsters for experience and money. The portable sword and sorcery game features interactive play with up to four players. Launch date: July 11, 2009 (Japan); December 11, 2009 (U.S.).
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22620 (added 2/27/2009)
This first-person shooter pits the player against Nazis in World War II, in an alternate history where the Nazis experimented with the supernatural and futuristic technology. “Wolfenstein” has had a following since the first game appeared as “Wolfenstein 3-D” in 1992.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22619 (added 2/27/2009)
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Writer's Bio: Chris Lundy is a freelance writer and game designer who covered municipal news for several New Jersey newspapers. He's also written comic books and short screenplays. Read more articles by this author
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