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Holiday Wish List: 2004 Day One

By Michael David Sims
27 November 2004 If there's one constant in the universe, it's that dozens upon dozens of video games will be released in the months leading up to the December holidays. Everything ranging from the forgettable (or regrettable) to the soon-to-be classics will clutter up store shelves for weeks, making shopping for a loved one (or yourself) that much harder. So, to make your life that much easier, Earth-2 will profile six games a day for the next five days. Not just any games mind you. These will be the 30 must-have games of the season.

The boring technical part: All of the games listed had to be published between September 1 and December 24. No exceptions. Hence the absence of Doom 3, which was released in August.

Only software was considered. Yes I realize the Nintendo DS will squirm its way onto the holiday wish lists of many gamers and I'm sure Santa will deliver plenty to good li'l boys and girls, but this is about games and games only.

For the sake of simplicity, all of the titles will be listed alphabetically and each will be assigned a numerical grade ranging from 1 to 4 (see the explanation below).

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!

With all that out of the way, let's get on with the show!

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Title: Atari Anthology
Systems: PS2 & Xbox
Rating: E
Release Date: November 16
Grade: 1

Old school gamers, get on your knees and rejoice! The greatness that is Atari has returned to bless us with this godly title. While there might be other classic anthologies on the market, this is the one Atari fans have been (im)patiently drooling over. With 85 (!) games loaded onto the disk (including Adventure, Combat, Pong, Super Breakout and Yars' Revenge), there is not a gamer alive (who's over twenty-three) who should miss this collection.

Two downsides, however. First: Where's Vanguard? Second: Playing these games with the D-pad instead of the paddle will take much getting used to. It's really a shame that someone hasn't produced a replica of the old Atari controllers, because that would make the experience of playing these games (and those on other anthologies) that much more memorable.

Title: Castlevania (Classic NES Series)
System: GBA
Rating: E
Release Date: October 25
Grade: 3

Look at this! Another classic game for old school gamers. Anyway. Whereas anybody could beat Super Mario Bros., Castlevania was for the hardcore. Which lead to it becoming somewhat of a sleeper hit for the NES. Yeah people talked about and it sold well enough to garner a sequel one year later, but only the best of the best actually put the time and effort into beating the now timeless story of Simon Belmont's quest to destroy Dracula. Despite what many gamers might think nowadays, publishing this game was actually a gutsy move on the part of Konami. Back then (1987) games were still being perceived as for children, so to produce something that would only appeal to teens and adults (due to its level of difficulty and horror aspects) took a major leap of faith. Now, all these years later, thanks to Konami and rabid fanboys worldwide, Castlevania is one of the biggest video game franchises to date.

Title: Dr. Mario (Classic NES Series)
System: GBA
Rating: E
Release Date: October 25
Grade: 3

Wha...? More classic goodness?! We must have been very good boys and girls this year, I tell you what. Not only were we good this year, but we were also good li'l ones in 1990 when this Tetris clone hit the shelves. Despite (or maybe because of) its similarities to the Russian puzzle game, Dr. Mario was (and still is) one of those few games that has mass appeal. Like Pac-Man (of both genders) and the aforementioned Tetris, Dr. Mario is deceptively hard. But by the time you realize that, you've become addicted to the good doctor's pills.

Title: Donkey Konga
System: GameCube
Rating: E
Release Date: September 27
Grade: 2

On the surface Donkey Konga might appear to be just another rhythm game in the vein of Parappa the Rapper, Samba De Amigo and DDR and it is. As it is with two of the games just mentioned, Donkey Konga seamlessly blends a gimmick (in this case the bongo controllers) with music and gameplay, leaving gamers with an excited feeling after just one song. And, much like Dr. Mario, the difficulty level of DK is well hidden. Songs such as "Bingo" and "We Will Rock You" can be completed with but a few errors (on the easiest mode that is), so when you tackle tougher songs, such as "All the Small Things" and "Busy Child," you find that you've missed more notes than you care to count. But, instead of giving up and walking away with a frustrated grumble spilling from your lips, you tackle the song once more and soon after realize you've been helplessly drawn into what is a really hard (and addictive) game.

Title: EverQuest II
System: PC
Rating: T
Release Date: November 15
Grade: 1 and 4

If you have friends or family who play EverQuest, bid farewell to them on November 14th because you will no longer see them once EverQuest II has been installed onto their computers. Easily the best-selling and most popular of the massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG), EverQuest fans have been shaking in anticipation for this one.

Now let me explain the dual grade. If you've never played an MMORPG, you're not going to be too excited about this one, but you still might want to pick it up for the experience. Or, just to see what all of the hype is about. Hence the 1. However, if you're an avid player of MMORPGs, especially the hugely popular EverQuest series, you'll be lining up outside of the stores the day of its release. Hence the 4. So instead of averaging the numbers off (which would have produced an unfairly low score), I assigned it the two grades.

Title: Fable
System: Xbox
Rating: M
Release Date: September 14
Grade: 3

Next to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Half-Life 2 and Halo 2, Fable has to be the most hyped game of the year. Maybe even of the last few years. The notion that one could go anywhere and become as good or evil as they wanted (and customize their look to go along with their personality) had gamers wetting their pants in the months leading up to its release. And though it didn't live up to all of its hype (what game ever does?), Fable is a solid gaming experience that provides much replayability through this system of eternally marking your character with every decision he might make.

So that was day one of this five-day journey. Tomorrow we'll look at four of the biggest releases of the year (you can easily guess which games those are), a game you've never heard of (but must own) and a title no one thought would ever see the light of day.

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

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Marvel Introduces Timely Comics
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