Give the gift of great games this holiday season
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Are you looking for the perfect gift for the gamer in your life or simply don't know what games to put on your holiday wish list? You're in luck! While 2013 was a rather disappointing year for gaming, this buyer's guide will let you know what games of the year are worthy of purchase.
Due to deadline restrictions, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One games were not be included here; a buyer's guide for those consoles can be found here.
"The Last of Us"
This is one of the most critically acclaimed games of the year for good reason. Developer Naughty Dog has crafted a survival horror game charged by an emotional story and phenomenal cast.
You guide, Joel, who reluctantly agrees to travel halfway across the U.S. with 14-year-old Ellie, who holds the cure to the plague caused by the Cordyceps fungus that wreaked havoc by suddenly spreading to humans 20 years before. While the gameplay is tense, the relationship between Joel and Ellie is the real star, and you'll have formed an emotional attachment to the two by the time the game reaches its shocking ending. (M)
"Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX"
In 2002, Square Enix teamed with Disney to combine characters from its "Final Fantasy" franchise with familiar Disney characters. The result was the PlayStation 2 action RPG classic "Kingdom Hearts," which became a widely acclaimed, popular series.
This collection includes the previous Japanese exclusive "Kingdom Hearts Final Mix," which added new cut scenes and optional bosses to the original game, and the PS2 remake of the Game Boy Advance game "Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories," which bridges the gap between the first and second games.
Also included are a large collection of journal entries and almost three hours of HD cut scenes from the DS-exclusive "Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days" (though you can't play the game), which takes place between the events of "Kingdom Hearts" and "Chain of Memories." (E10 )
"Beyond: Two Souls"
Starring Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, this is the latest from Quantic Dream, best known for the critically acclaimed "Heavy Rain." Like that title, "Beyond: Two Souls" merges elements of film and video games to create an interactive cinematic experience.
Rather than play as Ellen Page's Jodie Holmes, you're put in the role of a mysterious entity named Aiden, with whom Jodie has a connection. In this psychological action thriller you'll play through 15 years of Jodie's life as she attempts to understand who she is. (Rated M)
NINTENDO WII U
"The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD"
"The Wind Waker," the 2003 GameCube entry in "The Legend of Zelda" franchise, has often been cited as one of the best in the series, though its cel-shaded graphics -- now regarded as a great artistic choice -- caused controversy at the time. Gamers are able to experience it again with this HD remake, which includes Off-TV play, Miiverse functionality, a harder game mode and gameplay tweaks for a smoother experience. (E10 )
"Super Mario 3D World"
A sequel to 2011's 3DS-exclusive "Super Mario 3D Land," this implements gameplay elements like its predecessor as well as new ones. The game is still a mixture of the movement in 3D and 2D "Super Mario" games, and now five characters with unique abilities are available: Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad and Rosalina.
Additionally, new power-ups and items are introduced, such as Cat Forms, which allow characters to stick to walls, and the Cannon Box, which allows you to fire cannons. Along with local multiplayer co-op that supports up to four players, Off-TV play and Miiverse functionality are included. (E)
The long-awaited sequel to 2004's "Pikmin 2," the third game in this real-time strategy franchise makes its HD debut on the Wii U. Like previous games, you control up to 100 of the strange, alien creatures known as Pikmin, using them to battle enemies and explore the world.
Each colored Pikmin has different abilities (blue Pikmin are the only ones able to enter water, for example), and two new types are introduced: rock Pikmin, who look like rocks and can crash through environmental barriers, and the winged pink Pikmin, who can fly and carry items in the air. Off-TV play is also included, so you can play the game right on your Wii U Gamepad. (E10 )
"Pokemon X and Y"
The "Pokemon" series finally moves into the third dimension with "X" and "Y" (which differ in the Pokemon available in each game). Aside from 3D movement and character models, the games have loads of new features, 69 new Pokemon, character customization, smoother online play and an extra evolution stage for specific Pokemon, the mystery of which drives the plot. (E)
"Fire Emblem: Awakening"
The latest in the "Fire Emblem" series (which isn't played enough by gamers outside of Japan), "Awakening" has all you could want in a tactical RPG game. Strategy is the key to winning, meaning you have to think and contemplate your moves as you direct your units on the battlefield.
A new gameplay addition is the ability to change a unit's class; there are more than 40 base classes to choose from, not including the classes that can be upgraded to one of two promotions based on your choice. Other additions are the ability to pair units together -- which may lead to them getting married and having a child that can eventually join your army -- as well as StreetPass features and downloadable content.
Additionally, thanks to optional casual mode, "Awakening" is extremely accessible to newcomers of the franchise or the tactical RPG genre. Those who consider themselves pros, on the other hand, can play in classic mode, which features permadeath. Along with the mode, you'll have four difficulty levels (normal, hard, lunatic and the unlockable lunatic ) to choose from, ensuring that the game is as difficult as you'd like. (T)
"Animal Crossing: New Leaf"
The newest entry in the "Animal Crossing" franchise, "New Leaf" doesn't expand much on what Nintendo's odd life-simulation series has to offer. You are now the mayor of your town (meaning you'll have mayoral responsibilities), and the abilities to swim in the ocean and buy pants are introduced.
Apart from that, the gameplay is what fans are used to, with the game progressing in real time. The main reason to play is to collect various fossils, fish and insects. (E)
(PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Playstation Vita, PC; Xbox One and PS4 editions in February)
With its perfect gameplay and stunningly gorgeous hand-drawn graphics, "Rayman Legends" is the 2D platformer you're looking for this holiday season. It features more than 120 levels and local multiplayer co-op (two players on the Playstation Vita, up to five on the Wii U and four on other consoles) as well as online challenges that appear daily and weekly. (E10 )
"DmC: Devil May Cry"
(PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Set in an alternate reality, this is a reboot of the "Devil May Cry" series. Developed by Ninja Theory (best known for its underrated "Heavenly Sword" and "Enslaved: Oddysey to the West) as opposed to the original series' Capcom, it is my pick for game of the year.
The standard, addictive hack-and-slash gameplay is here with plenty of weapons to unlock, and the game is as hard as other franchise entries with its seven difficulty modes. "DmC" offers a highly engrossing, satirical plot that gets surprisingly philosophical, and it's a great pick for anyone looking for a fun action game. (M)
"Grand Theft Auto V"
(PS3, Xbox 360)
The fifth entry in Rockstar's long-running "Grand Theft Auto" series features some serious changes. You now control three main characters, which have interconnecting storylines and can be switched to at will, and you also have access to the biggest setting in a Rockstar title, with the game world spanning 49 square miles. Featuring the standard Rockstar-refined third-person shooting, "GTA V" also has new activities such as BASE-jumping and scuba diving and a robust online multiplayer mode with up to 16 players. (M)