Coming Attractions: RPGs
I put on my robe and wizard hat.
We've already presented roundups of this year's most promising shooters, racers, action-adventure and sports games. Now it's the turn of role-playing games or, as the professionals call them, "RPGs".
Try not to get too cross, but this roundup also includes MMORPGs - there aren't enough of them to merit doing a separate article. If you feel that strongly about it why not say so in the comments or write to your MP.
Speaking of MMORPGs, there's Age of Conan and Warhammer Online to look forward to this year. Xbox 360 owners will get Too Human, Lost Odyssey and Fable 2 exclusively, while cross-platform titles will include Fallout 3 and Rise of the Argonauts. Square Enix will be cranking up the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest machines again too.
There's a lot to be getting on with, in other words, so without further ado...
The original Okami, a PS2 exclusive, was a hit with Kristan. He slapped a big fat ten on the end of his review, highlighting the "wonderfully original combat" and "the most adorable art style ever seen as a videogame". Okami, he reckoned, was "not just one of the most consistently engaging action adventures we've played, but one that feels utterly unique in many ways that matter".
It was also a big hit with the rest of the Internet - to such an extent that Capcom listened to demand and agreed to produce a Wii version. There's not too much longer to wait now with the game due to arrive on 25th March.
For those who aren't familiar, Okami tells the story of a mythical sun god who sets out to battle evil by commanding the elements. The game is inspired by Japanese folklore and calligraphy. In the Wii version, you'll wave the remote about like a paintbrush to defeat enemies and solve puzzles.
Clover Studio has been disbanded since the original Okami. The port is being handled by Ready at Dawn, the studio founded by former Naughty Dog employees a few years ago. They did the excellent Daxter, so hopes are high for this one.
Seeing is believing: It's hard to describe Okami, so why not take a look for yourself - a video of the PS2 version is now showing on Eurogamer TV.
This PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 title is being developed by the makers of Oblivion and is set in a post-nuclear world. So you'll be punching more radioactive mutants and fewer rats.
In fact, Fallout 3 is "a very different game" to Oblivion, according to Bethesda's Peter Hines. "It's EXP based, not skill based, it's post-nuclear not fantasy, it's guns not swords," he told us last year.
Other features will include the option to choose a first- or third-person perspective and "unlimited" customer characterisation. There are moral choices to make as you progress. An assisted targeting system, tip-top AI and pretty pictures are promised, and Qui-Gon Jinn has signed up to star.
"So far it's looking true to its origins, while appropriately forward-facing," John wrote last July. "It's clear [Bethesda loves] Fallout. In a year's time, we think we're going to be joining them." That'd be less than a year by today's reckoning, as Fallout 3 is due to arrive this autumn.
Protect and survive: If you grew up in the eighties, you'll remember what it was like to grow up under the permanent threat of nuclear holocaust. And you'll remember the Government information films which suggested the damaging effects of nuclear bombs could be reduced by drawing your curtains and lying down. Worth a try eh, Thatch, can we have our milk back my name's Ben Elton etc.
Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of MirrorsMore than 43 million Dragon Quest games have already been sold, more than seven of those to people who live outside Asia. Now Square Enix is hoping to expand the series' European fanbase with the release of this Wii exclusive.
Dragon Quest Swords: Etc. is an on-rails RPG with a first-person perspective. The story revolves around a 16-year-old boy who must complete a trial of strength to earn the title of warrior and respect of girls. Attacking, parrying and blocking is done by swinging the Wii remote about like a sword.
Series creator Yuji Hori is in charge once again, while manga artist Akira Toriyama and composer Koichi Sugiyama have also contributed. Apparently the "international version" of DQS features "revised gameplay, offering a more intense and challenging experience".
Simon got to play the game last May and described the experience as "mostly fun, if shallow". He also warned, "Whether Swords is able to evangelise the series further afield to Western players (most of whom do not have any benign nostalgia toward the series) seems perhaps unlikely." Oh. We'll see if he's right when the game is released this spring.
Becoming more like Albi: There are plenty of DQS videos over on the gamepage. Or you could watch this one about a racist dragon.
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker is a DS spin-off of the popular series you just read about, and it's like Pokémon.
There are around 200 monsters to collect, and you can mix and match them to create new breeds. The idea is that you build up a squad of critters and build up their skills by fighting. You can take on other players wirelessly, and compete in the online Wildcard World Cup via Wi-Fi Connection.
There's a trio of trailers over on Eurogamer TV, if you can stand the shouting. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker is out on 14th March.
Ow my eyes: Perhaps DQM will get its own homosexual fan fiction, just like Pokémon. Yes, really. (NSFW, especially if you read/act it out.)