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In a December 17, 2008 press release, Nintendo announced the first-quarter 2009 release schedule for both the Nintendo Wii and the DS handheld unit. In addition to finally giving some concrete release dates for some of the most anticipated new releases of the upcoming year, the list contains a few surprises as well.
Here are some of the highlights:
Sega has three intriguing looking Wii titles set for release before the end of March. Due out first will be the first-person rail shooter House of the Dead: Overkill, which should be out in February. An expansion of their popular arcade series, Overkill will feature a new slow-motion mechanic that is said to allow for better aiming, and it is also expected to be an immensely bloody title, hence the subtitle. In March, the third-party publisher will release another grisly, violent and decidedly adult title, Madworld, which will feature mostly black and white graphics except for blood, which will maintain its usual red hue. Joining Madworld in March will be Sonic and the Black Knight, a follow up to Sonic and the Secret Rings in which the blue hedgehog will be wielding a sword and fighting medieval style, which the player will control with the Wiimote and Nunchuck.
Also due out in March will be the first North American entries in the New Play Control! series, which is the newly renamed "Wii de Asobu Selection" or "Let's Play it On the Wii". These are the Gamecube games that are being remade with Wii-specific motion controls that I first wrote about back in October. Leading the way will be Pikmin and Mario Power Tennis. According to the press release, "The enhanced New Play Control! Pikmin game lets players point the Wii Remote controller at the screen and use it as a cursor, making it easy to select either a single Pikmin or an entire army. When a player tosses Pikmin, they fly wherever the cursor is pointing. New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis lets players enjoy an afternoon on the court as their favorite characters from the Mushroom Kingdom, complete with motion-controlled serves and swings. With Wii controls, players can swing the Wii Remote controller to hit forehands and backhands and to apply spin. Experienced gamers can also attach a Nunchuk™ controller for additional precision." No price point is mentioned from Nintendo, but Amazon.com has a listing for New Play Control! Pikmin with a $29.99 price, which does seem a tad high.
Square Enix has been readying a new Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles title for both Wii and DS, and surprisingly, it looks like it should make it out sometime this spring -- at least, according to the Nintendo press release. Subtitled Echoes of Time, this intriguing action/RPG, which won't even be out in Japan until late January 2009, allows players to play together regardless of which version of the game they are using. Not a ton is known about the game, but judging from screen-shots, it looks fairly similar to the previous DS Crystal Chronicles game, Ring of Fates. Not sure if it's cause for alarm or not, but only the DS version of the game was listed on the press release, with the title surprisingly absent from the list of upcoming Wii titles. Does this mean they won't ship together?
In more DS news, there are finally some concrete release dates for other highly anticipated titles as well. Nintendo themselves will be releasing the most recent addition to their popular Pokémon series of games, Pokémon Platinum, on March 22. Also due out from the "big N" is Personal Trainer: Math on January 12 and Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, with a surprising date of February 16 (there had been rumors it wouldn't make it to the U.S. until the summer). Unfortunately, Rockstar Games hasn't pinned down an exact date for Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars just yet. The game carries a vague "Winter" release date as of right now.
Other games of note included on the press release: EA's NASCAR Kart Racing (Feb. 10) and Trivial Pursuit (early spring) for the Wii, Zubo (March) and Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (Q1) for the DS, and SimAnimals (Jan. 27) for both systems; Marvelous Entertainment's Little King's Story (February 17) and Rune Factory: Frontier (March) for the Wii and Avalon Code (February) and Flower, Sun, and Rain (March) for the DS; Konami's Dance Dance Revolution: Disney Grooves (March) for the Wii and Elebits: The Adventures of Kai and Zero and Suikoden Teirkreis for the DS (Q1); Jagged Alliance (Feb. 17), a DS port of the popular PC title, from Empire Interactive; a game based on Disney's popular Phineas and Ferb cartoon (winter); Mastiff Publishing's atmospheric adventure Moon (January 13) and Broken Sword: Shadows of the Templars (Director's Cut) from Ubisoft for both the Wii and the DS. To view out the complete lineup, check out Nintendo of America's Media Website.