As expected, the penultimate New Games Day of 2003 (December 26th doesn't count) yields very few surprises. But it's good news for anybody after something new with Harry Potter written on it for that troublesome niece or nephew, as the next-gen console versions of EA's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone arrive on cue. Although EA did release a Philosopher's Stone game originally - the hugely successful PSX title developed here in the UK by Argonaut - this is the first time Potter's original adventure has graced screens hooked up to PlayStation 2s, Xboxen and GameCubes. (Unless you're a cheeky so-and-so who played the PSX game on the PS2 and plans to ambush me with such wit in the comments thread.)
Horizons: Empire of Istaria, meanwhile, is obviously fairly highly anticipated or Atari wouldn't have kept emailing me about its slip-slidey release date. According to folks in the know, it's a massively-multiplayer RPG that lets you step outside the traditional roles of elves, humans, dwarves, etc, and into the boots of half-giants and even dragons. Dragons? Yes. Apparently, as a dragon, you can build your own lair and fill it with a hoard of gold, and the sooner it's full the sooner you'll grow into a larger dragon. Obviously you can be a lot of things besides that, but who isn't going to try and be the dragon? Eh? You can probably even pick the colour of its scales! Given that Horizons is going for about £20 here in the UK, it might be worth a go.
Likewise, Medal of Honor: Infiltrator is definitely worth a go, as you can find out here. Whether it's worth £35 though is another matter entirely; its startling brevity and occasional frustrations could well put it beyond the interest level of most GBA owners. Buy Mario & Luigi instead - you probably haven't bought it yet and it's probably the best GBA game of the year.
Finally, this week sees the release of a pretender to Championship Manager's throne. Sports Interactive's CM: Season 03/04 continues to outsell every other PC game, but with no PS2 Championship Manager to date, Total Club Manager 2004 (and next week's Premier Manager 2003-2004) are left vying for contention in an otherwise pretty barren arena. Reviews have been fairly kind to TCM2004, pointing out that for all CM's depth and sophistication, TCM is quickly rewarding and a very playable game. It may not match CM's player database for authenticity, but the general consensus says this does enough to be worth buying - and rewarding players for achieving certain goals besides just winning the league or cup means that even managing mediocre teams (like Everton) can be a lot of fun.
With that, you're probably wondering what's left for the rest of the year. Or "next Friday". And the answer is: not a lot. EA seems to have the Christmas No.1 sewn up thanks to some clever scheduling, which sees The Sims Bustin' Out appear on PS2, Xbox and Cube just a few days prior to the official result, and Premier Manager 2003-2004 is there on PS2 to boot. But that really is it. Join me again next week, or just do what I've been doing and play Prince of Persia all afternoon on the PC. That joypad they stuck in the box wasn't too bad in the end! Ah... Prince of Persia...
Right. Have a nice weekend, then.
Oh and if you don't, just rewind and try again.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (PS2, Xbox, Cube)
- Horizons: Empire of Istaria (PC)
- Medal of Honor: Infiltrator (GBA)
- Premier Manager 2003-2004 (PS2)
- Total Club Manager 2004 (PS2)
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