What's New?

(This week's European releases.) Not a whole hell of a lot, although when does that ever stop us?

Hey summer where ya bin? This week has been an odd one. Lots of things have been announced without really being announced; PS3 and Xbox 2 found proper headlines for themselves, Doom 3 went gold, Ben Folds opened up pre-orders for his new EP [What does that have to do with anything? -Ed] and the sky alternately growled and shone around here like an erratic traffic light. Fortunately for you, there's much to fill the void whatever the weather does this weekend, although probably not all that much new.

Fire Away

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Fire Emblem is what we'd be doing if the sun decided to linger. It's a magical little game in our view, combining the best bits of Advance Wars with the best narrative hooks that Japanese RPG developers have to offer. Then again it's made by Intelligent Systems, so that's not altogether surprising. If you're bored of turn-based RPG mechanics though, you'll probably love it. There's an old cliché that reviewers like to use when a game's really good - moaning that they were so happy playing it that actually writing the review was something of a chore, but in this case that's probably true. Or else I wouldn't have been shouted at quite so much and wound up writing the thing at 10pm one evening.

Of course if it started raining we'd be in a spot of bother. Of the games we were tracking for release today, Combat Elite from Acclaim (a very promising mixture of World War II and Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance-style hackandslash, as we recall) seems to have slipped due to niggling legal difficulties (lawyers have bigger guns), while the PC version of The Suffering seems to be down for the end of July all of a sudden, although you could at least dip into that on PS2 or Xbox if you preferred.

All of which leaves us with Goblin Commander on PS2 and Xbox, and Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Games on the GBA. Hamtaro is the sort of thing we really like when we're sent it for free, but probably wouldn't recommend anybody over the age of about 10 spend money on. (Although watch out for it as a Reader Reviews prize or something of the sort, eh?) Goblin Commander, on the other hand, has picked up fairly favourable reviews in the States (6s and 7s mainly), but we don't really know what we think of it. Straight strategy games don't often work well on consoles unless they're of a particular breed (like Final Fantasy Tactics or something), and although we like goblins, wizards, and making them fight, we'd recommend a rental or something if you're tickled by the prospect. Sorry. We can't shift the memory of Aliens Versus Predator: Extinction. It spat acid in our eyes you know.

Tales of Woe

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There's more to think about in the US, though, including the well-received Tales of Symphonia from Namco on the GameCube (what? A Cube RPG?) and the second volume of Karaoke Revolution on PS2, as we continue to wait and see what happens to the PAL version of the original, Karaoke Stage, which seems to be caught up in some sort of untold licensing hell. That's our best guess anyway. As for Tales, we're going to get a copy and get excited about it, but for now you should probably know it's being hailed as a mixture of RPG and adventure elements with a battle system and puzzle solving that would appeal to action fans at the same time. Albeit saddled with some severe frustration and excessive travelling time between places.

And there you have it, believe it or not. Perhaps with so little on the shelves to get excited about this week, you'll do as we've done and catch up on some you missed. Xbox owners would do well to track down TOCA Race Driver 2 and Full Spectrum Warrior to name a couple, PS2 owners may find something like GT4 Prologue or Athens 2004 to their liking, and Cube owners... Well, Mario Golf is still tucked in our disc tray, if that's any indication. GBA owners actually have it best at the moment, if you ask us, what with F-Zero: GP Legend, which we still haven't completely finished, the aforementioned Fire Emblem, Metroid: Zero Mission and Shining Force still lurking on shop shelves. And since we've plugged one Intelligent Systems game today, we might as well make yet another plea for people to pick up last year's Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, which remains one of our top five all time handheld titles. You may have to jump to reach it off the shelf if it's taken a back seat, but wear a green cap and no one will recognise you.

Oh, and in a strange (or should we say 'strained') bout of continuity, we've received lots of suggestions about the dream I had the other week. Thanks. Most focus on being in a new house, dropping expensive electronic devices on my feet, and inviting crazy Irish people round to stay for the weekend, which is probably at least something to do with it. This week, I remember no dreams, although between playing Fire Emblem and attempting to think of Tribes-related puns (we vetoed 'Tribes 2 goes to war' and 'Tribes, Tribes and Tribes Again' amongst over several others), there hasn't been much time for sleep. There is now though, which is why I'm off to play Kirby & The Amazing Mirror whilst sweeping the floor with clothes tied to my feet. Just don't tell anyone.

  • PAL Releases
  • Fire Emblem (GBA)
  • Goblin Commander: Unleash The Horde (PS2, Xbox)
  • Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Games (GBA)

  • Key US Releases
  • Karaoke Revolution Volume 2 (PS2)
  • Tales of Symphonia (Cube)

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