Giftamania 2016 (Updated)

Update: Added Dead Rising 4 and LEGO Dimensions expansion packs.

With apologies to Maffew, as well as everyone else for not getting this up a little sooner as I’d have liked.

Following is a quick list of titles and things good for grabbing as gifts for the gamer in your life this holiday season. Mind, these come as my own personal recommendations, and don’t account for everything, including some “obvious” picks (such as Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Final Fantasy XV, and Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon). Everything here has been released in some form or fashion since Christmas 2015.

Xbox One

killerinstinctdefeditionXbox One S – Your mileage may vary on this one; if you or the intended recipient don’t own an Xbox One already, then this is the way to go. If you/they are planning on getting a 4K TV in the next year, however, then you might want to wait for Microsoft’s Project Scorpio — or at least more details about it — to emerge.

Killer Instinct: Definitive Edition Originally introduced in 2013, the revival of Killer Instinct has finally reached completion after three “seasons” of releases. While I only reviewed the first season, much more content has been made available since then, including new guest stars from Halo, Gears of War, and Battletoads! What’s more, you can now get everything in one complete package at retail with the Definitive Edition, which also includes a soundtrack CD and code for a gold Gargos skin. Now that’s what I call an Ultra Combo! (Also available on Windows 10 via Play Anywhere with Xbox One)

Forza Horizon 3 This open-world driving game is great for relaxing, but also provides plenty of excitement as you partake in various races, challenges, and even hunts for classic vehicles. Sync up your own custom soundtrack (or use one of the stations in the game) and hit the road — as well as the plains, beaches, and anywhere else you can think to drive! (Also available on Windows 10 via Play Anywhere with Xbox One)

oriblindforestdefeditionboxOri and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition (Review Pending) – Alongside Killer Instinct, this was one of the games which made me want an Xbox One in the first place, and I haven’t been disappointed. This Metroidvania-styled platformer has a beautifully eerie presence a surprising degree of emotion as well. I was saving this to say in my already long-overdue review, but to me, Ori feels like the perfect mascot for the Xbox One, and deserves to be adopted as one. Plus, for the price, how can you afford not to try it? (Also available for Windows via Steam)

ReCore (Review Pending) – From some of the creative minds who brought you Mega Man and Metroid Prime comes this mysterious tale from another world. As Joule Adams, you’re tasked with exploring the planet of Far Eden and finding out what happened to those who were supposed to colonize it for mankind’s survival. But while you seem to be the only human around, you’re not alone — a group of Corebots use the special abilities granted by their customizable frames (such as the “dog,” Mack) to assist you throughout this third-person adventure that feels in some ways like a mix of Mega Man Legends and Metroid Prime, coupled with its own unique elements as well. (Also available on Windows 10 via Play Anywhere with Xbox One)

Quantum Break (Review Pending) – Yeah, I know — I’m juggling a lot of balls in the air here (and yes, it’s driving me nuts). This is an extremely story-oriented third-person shooter with some interesting characters and some content that’s set up like an actual television serial interspersed with the game’s chapters. If you’re cool with a game you watch as or more often than you play, then this one’s definitely worth a look. (Also available on Windows 10)

Xbox Design Lab – The Xbox One Wireless Controller is one of my favorite controllers to come around in some time, with a comfortable feel and a Dpad that’s not only finally worth a damn, but pretty dang good in its own right! So what could make it better? How about your own choice of color scheme, and maybe a laser-engraved message as well? This holiday season, you can give a custom Xbox Design Lab controller as a gift by purchasing a code which the recipient can then redeem to make the controller of their dreams (and 14-day shipping is free!).

Dead Rising 4 – This late arrival to stores and this list alike is a must-own this holiday season for its Yuletide setting alone, but for fans of beat ’em up-styled gameplay, the latest adventure of Frank West really hits home.

Wii U

papermariocolorsplashboxPaper Mario: Color Splash After Paper Mario: Sticker Star, I thought that the magic of the series I loved might never return. Imagine my surprise when Nintendo took such great strides towards a return to form just one installment later! While still not quite on the level of the masterpiece that is Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, this lite-RPG adventure is a great choice for all ages.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD Nintendo’s next console, the Switch, isn’t destined to join us until March of next year, and the Zelda title designed to bridge it and the Wii U, Breath of the Wild, may take even longer still. In the meantime, they’ve updated the game which bridged the GameCube and the Wii with improved visuals and other features, including amiibo support! Get the game with the Wolf Link w/Midna amiibo, and you can begin prepping it to join you in the next Zelda adventure, whenever it may come!

Nintendo 3DS

kirbyplanetrobobotboxKirby: Planet Robobot Simply put, this is a must-have for any Nintendo 3DS owner. To say anything more would simply diminish it; if you or someone you know hasn’t played it, then rectify that immediately (or at least come the holidays).

Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack This spiritual successor to games such as Mega Man Zero really brings the thunder — or the lightning, at least! And with the recent release of Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 in the Nintendo eShop, you can now get both chapters together on a single game card at retail!

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam It’s a crossover no one knew they wanted — or was even possible! Establishing the Paper Mario series as a separate entity (well, even more so), Nintendo’s two long-running Mario role playing game series collide as denizens of the Paper world are released into the regular Mario world, and chaos ensues! This one is definitely a “cut” above!

Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice While the original Sonic Boom games did little to endear the world to this iteration of the franchise, Fire & Ice is a much better second go. With humorous writing and voice acting that’s in keeping with the Sonic Boom cartoon and the addition of Amy Rose to the playable character roster, Fire & Ice doesn’t excel, but it is comfort gaming at its finest.

Project X Zone 2 Let’s get crazy! This turn-based strategy game brings together characters from several of SEGA, Capcom, Bandai Namco, and Nintendo’s top titles for a fan service smorgasbord! Even if you don’t know all the characters involved (and the odds are pretty good that you won’t know everyone), don’t worry — you’ll probably find yourself wanting to check out some new games by the end of it. Heck, I never had any interest in SEGA’s Yakuza before, but now I can’t wait for Yakuza 0 to arrive on PlayStation 4 early next year!

PlayStation 4

dragonquestbuildersboxPlayStation 4 Pro – Speaking of PlayStation 4, if you’re interested in 4K gaming or virtual reality with PlayStation VR, then this is the model to look into. Just know that while it can stream 4K video, it won’t play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs.

Dragon Quest Builders Part of Minecraft‘s strength is its go anywhere, do anything you want freedom. However, if you’re interested in a game which captures the building and resource mechanics while providing you with a bit more of a purpose, then this alternate timeline sequel to the original Dragon Quest ought to be right up your alley.

Ratchet & Clank This latest release in the long-running PlayStation-exclusive franchise combines what made the original game great with a bit of added flair from the motion picture release, turns it on its head, sprinkles in some elements from other installments, and provides an experience great for longtime fans of the series and newcomers alike. And given that the film (which is based on the original game, with this being based on that) didn’t quite set hearts aflutter while the game was a number-one bestseller, it’s probably safe to say that if you have to choose between the two, going with the game is probably the best choice.

Multiplatform

deusexmankindboxartDeus Ex: Mankind Divided (Review Pending) – The Canadian Video Game Awards 2016 winner for Best Console Game, Best Game Design, Best Narrative, Best Performance, and oh yeah, Game of the Year. As Adam Jensen, you’re a cybernetically-enhanced human (though you didn’t ask for this) who is putting his myriad tools to good use as you make the decisions you think will best see you through to victory. Lethal or non-lethal weapons? Employ stealth, or go in guns blazing? These choices and many more are yours.

Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration (Review Pending) – For as iconic a figure as Lara Croft has been for the industry over the years, this installment follows in the footsteps of its predecessor by being decidedly not for children — or the faint of heart. It’s definitely an intense game that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and some parts can be pretty gruesome as well. That said, the original version came to Xbox One last year, but 20 Year Celebration throws in all the extra content that has been released since then, including some additional skins (such as a Retro Lara for a nostalgic kick), a co-op mode, and an Extreme Difficulty mode. On PlayStation 4, it’s also one of the first games to take advantage of the HDR features and 4K resolution provided by the Pro version, as well as a chapter playable in PlayStation VR.

WWE 2K17 The latest installment in 2K Games’ long-running sports entertainment adaptation is opting for a little more of a sim flavor this year. Create your own Superstars and events, alter others, and have the full run of Raw, Smackdown, and the rest of the shows WWE brings to a worldwide audience every week.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan On the half-shell, they’re the heroes four; in this day and age, who could ask for more? This IDW Comics-styled game is all about teamwork, whether you’re working with friends or strangers in online multiplayer, or managing all four green teens yourself.

skylandersimaginatorsboxSkylanders Imaginators Continuing the ever-growing theme of player-created content, this year’s Skylanders title allows you to create your very own Skylander called an Imaginator. They come in all different types, and become more powerful when one of the new Senseis shows them their moves. Plus, if you get the PlayStation 4 version (though it should come to the others next year), you can also get Skylanders of Spyro’s old pal, Crash Bandicoot and his rival Dr. Neo Cortex.

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Chewie… we’re home.” These words from Han Solo reflect the feeling of this LEGO title as the series gets back to its roots, but with some new tricks as well. And it just feels so right.

Mega Man Legacy Collection Released as a digital download for Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 late last year, this collection of the Blue Bomber’s six Nintendo Entertainment System adventures (and all the gobs of additional related content included) not only arrived on the Nintendo 3DS earlier this year, but at retail for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as well. Plus, if you go for the physical Nintendo 3DS version, you can also add an exclusive gold Mega Man amiibo figure to your collection!

Mighty No. 9 This spiritual successor to Mega Man comes with a pretty severe caveat, as the game has been very divisive: If you or someone you know wants a challenge, then this one may deliver. That said, it’s best to look around and see if you can find a good bargain on it to keep your bets safe. Think of this one as “stocking stuffer” material, or consider trying the free demo first. Oh, and be careful about getting the Wii U version — that one apparently suffered from some pretty nasty hardware crashing issues, and I’m not sure if they ever got all those fixed.

LEGO Dimensions Sonic the Hedgehog Level Pack – The toys alone are cool enough, but getting to use them in a game which does a pretty good job of marrying the LEGO and Sonic styles of gameplay is even better.

LEGO Dimensions Gremlins Team Pack – Based on one of my favorite holiday movies, exploring the town of Kingston Falls during the snowy holiday season makes this a perfect holiday gift for anyone who owns (or will soon own) LEGO Dimensions.

Other

supermarioadventuresSuper Mario Run Though this game is available now, you won’t be able to buy it in stores. However, as it commands a $13.99 price tag, an iTunes gift card or two for the intended recipient may not be the worst idea. Just remember that it launches as an iOS exclusive, while the Android version comes sometime later.

Super Mario Adventures This recently republished collection of the comic which originally ran in Nintendo Power magazine 25 years ago is, for many, one of the definitive pieces of Mario fiction (outside of the games, that is). A loose adaptation of Super Mario World, this also includes an additional chapter which loosely adapts Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins and gives us the origin of Wario. Sadly, the 14th and final installment was not included; thankfully, it was a standalone story, so the rest of the book holds up quite well on its own otherwise.

NES Classic Edition and NES Controllers – Good luck finding either of these! Even if you’re not interested in this plug ‘n play collection of 30 classic games for yourself, you’re almost guaranteed to know someone who is, so if you see one in the wild — grab it! And if you happen to come across the even rarer controller, a replica of the original NES input device, consider that it also works with some games (pretty much anything a sideways Wii Remote would) on the Wii and Wii U!

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

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I was this close to calling this one “X15 Media Showcase Gonna Give It To Ya’,” but I was afraid the message might get lost somewhere.

In any case, Xbox has had a busy week over in Germany for gamescom 2015. So before getting to the big news (at least, big if you’re going to be in Toronto later this month), here are a few highlights.

First up, there is the announcement of a third season of content for the Xbox One-exclusive combo-driven fighting game, Killer Instinct. And as part of that third season is a most unexpected — yet all-too fitting — new addition to the roster:

Hot on the heels of the recently-released Rare Replay that brought the brand back into the spotlight comes one mad, bad, and crazy toad — Battletoad, that is, as Rash makes the leap from Ragnarok World to take on whatever the evil corporation UltraTech has to throw at him. At the end of the trailer, Rash notes that “these cameos are killer.” Simple wordplay on the game’s title, or a hint that the toad-ally tubular trio are ready to take on a starring role again? You be the judge.

The third season doesn’t hit until March 2016, but if you’ve bought either Rare Replay or any prior Killer Instinct content, you can get mad, bad, and crazy yourself until September 8th with a sneak preview.

Next up: Things have been quiet with the focus of my #2 moment from the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo press conference… that is, until now.

Scalebound, or what I called a cross between Mega Man and How to Train Your Dragon, is on its way towards a 2016 release from PlatinumGames and director Hideki Kamiya.

In Scalebound, you will experience the journey of a young loner named Drew, who is pulled into the strange, beautiful, and dangerous world of Draconis – where he is bonded to a fearsome and noble dragon, Thuban, the last of his kind. These two lone-wolf heroes, thrown together by fate, must learn to fight as one to defeat the powerful enemies that threaten Draconis, Earth, and a vast universe of parallel worlds.

It is in this Xbox One-exclusive title that you’ll work with your ferocious companion to take down monsters and armies alike as you explore the world of Draconis. What’s more, you can customize your dragon, starting with such shapes as winged serpents, four legged tanks, and more and evolving their appearance, as well as unique attacks and abilities.

On top of all that, there’s also a four-player co-op mode that Platinum is keeping details under wraps on for now. Maybe you can even form your own “Riders of Berk Draconis”?

Last on my list of gamescom highlights is that Xbox One backwards compatibility is coming in November. Over 100 Xbox 360 titles from such companies as 2K, Bandai Namco Games, Bethesda, Capcom, Codemasters, Deep Silver, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, Koei Tecmo Games, Majesco, SEGA, Square Enix, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros. will be available to play from the comfort of your current-generation console, complete with all the new features it provides.

For more details on these announcements and more (including Mafia III, Crackdown 3, and Halo Wars 2) from Xbox at gamescom 2015, just click here.

Now for the headline news…

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From 6 to 11pm local time on Wednesday, August 19th, Xbox fans will have the opportunity to converge and gather at the Sound Academy at 11 Polson St. for the X15 Media Showcase. Those who can’t make it all the way there will find a shuttle service available starting at 5:45pm to and from Union Station.

And in case you weren’t sure? Yes, this is for the general public.

With the promise of more than 100 consoles and over 30 developers, there will unquestionably be a lot to see there. There are no exact specifics on the lineup, but I’m told that “all our big upcoming titles like Halo, Forza, Tomb Raider, and Fable” will be there, as well as some “great” third party and [email protected] titles. Among the developers there will be some for Rare Replay, so it seems likely that will be on hand for anyone to try out as well.

And who knows? Maybe some cool stuff announced at gamescom 2015 will be there; if not some dragon-riding, maybe there will at least be a chance to get mad, bad, and crazy?

That last bit is pretty much conjecture on my part, but either way, it isn’t to be missed.

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Wow, the penultimate Nintendo Download before Halloween is a bigger one than we’ve seen in a while!

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Bayonetta 2 for Wii U – Available October 24th: The witch is back, and she’s more powerful than ever before with new movies like the Umbran Climax to take out angels and demons in over-the-top action. The free demo is already available, and you can check out a trailer here

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Bayonetta for Wii U – Also available October 24th is the original title which brought Bayonetta to the masses, now with new features such as Nintendo-themed character costumes for Bayonetta to wear and use against her foes.

Plus, “anyone who purchases the digital version of Bayonetta or Bayonetta 2 in the Nintendo eShop on Wii U will receive an automatic discount that will be applied to the purchase of the other game, making the total for both games just $59.98.” Just like the two-for-one retail version!

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Just Dance 2015 for Wii U – “The world’s No. 1 dance game is back with new moves, game modes and more than 40 top tracks, featuring hit songs by Maroon 5, Pharrell Williams and Rihanna. In the new Community Remix, players become a Just Dance coach, while in the new Dance Challenger Mode, everyone can dance along or compete against players around the world.” You can find a trailer here.

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The Voice for Wii U – Based on the television show of the same name, you can belt out rock, R&B, country, and pop tunes as you venture from Blind Auditions to Battle Rounds and all the way to the Finale. Up to eight players can participate in the Party Mode.

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Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow for Wii U – It’s 2035– do you know where your vampire hunters are? As Soma Cruz, you black out as you’re about to witness the first solar eclipse of the 21st century and awaken to find yourself in a mysterious castle. With the new Tactical Soul system to steal the powers of the foes you’ve defeated and turn them against their own dark brethren. Upon conquering the castle, four other modes await you…

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Fantasy Life for Nintendo 3DS – Available October 24th, you can take on any number of different roles in this role playing game adventure. Beyond the normal warriors and mages, you can also become a craftsman, a cook, or a merchant, each shaping a different journey for you. Check out the trailer here.

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Pokémon Art Academy for Nintendo 3DS – Available October 24th, you take on the role of an aspiring artist as Professor Andy teaches you how to draw Pokemon! You can view the trailer here, and while supplies last, those who purchase this game in the Nintendo eShop will gain a code to download a Special Demo Version of Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire.

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Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse for Nintendo 3DS – Shantae finally returns, but she is now without her genie magic. Now she must team up with her arch-nemesis, Risky Boots, and become a pirate in order to save Sequin Land from an evil curse. Click here for the trailer.

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Big Hero 6 Battle in the Bay for Nintendo 3DS – Available October 28th, this story takes place after the movie as Baymax, GoGo Tomago, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, and Fred attempt to save the city of San Fransokyo from a battlebot invasion.

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Castle Conqueror EX for Nintendo 3DS – “A real-time strategy game for casual gamers,” this title expands on the Nintendo DSiWare title of the same name. As one of four different heroes, you’ll lead your men through 50 stages of castle conquering as you seek to banish the evil empire from your land. New features include remade artificial intelligence and levels, redesigned items and hero abilities, and the ability to use Play Coins to boost battle effects in-game.

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KORG DSN-12 for Nintendo 3DS – 12 monophonic synthesizers each allow you to add three effects, “allowing a broad range of powerful sounds that you would not expect from a game machine.”

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Power Rangers Super Megaforce for Nintendo 3DS – Available October 28th. Go Go Megaforce! The alien armada has invaded Earth, and as the Power Rangers Super Megaforce, you can use special Ranger Keys to unlock the powers of the Legendary Ranger teams of the past to fend off the invading forces.

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Secret Journeys: Cities of the World for Nintendo 3DS – A hidden object game featuring over 1,000 to find, spread throughout Venice, Mumbai, Beijing, and Nairobi.

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The Legend of Korra: A New Era Begins for Nintendo 3DS – Available October 28th. In an original Avatar storyline penned by the TV show’s creators, Korra and her friends must stop an ancient evil who has emerged from a portal that threatens the balance of both worlds. Wield the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water in this role playing game.

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Magical Diary: Secret Sharing for Nintendo 3DS – A diary program which allows you to customize entries with stickers, paper designs, different font colors, customizable covers, emoji, and more. With wireless communication, you can then share your diary entries with friends.

Nintendo eShop Sales

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Sweet Memories: Black Jack for Nintendo 3DS – Until 8:59am PT on November 6th, this title is reduced from $3.99 to $2.79 (30 percent off).

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Wakedas for Nintendo 3DS – Until 8:59am PT on November 6th, this title is reduced from $2.99 to $1.99 (more than 30 percent off).

Coming Soon

Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land for Wii U – Coming October 30th.

Demon’s Crest for Wii U – Coming October 30th.

Gargoyle’s Quest II: The Demon Darkness for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS – Coming October 30th.

For more information, screens, and videos for each of this week’s releases, click on the corresponding links above.

Some people who viewed Nintendo’s E3 2012 press conference felt that the show needed something with a little more “sizzle” than Nintendo Land, one of the company’s big titles for the year, to end on. And some have agreed that “Project P-100” (working title), which was revealed right after the conference ended, would have been a perfect candidate.

Project P-100 is a Wii U game which will be published by Nintendo, but developed by Platinum Games, a studio best known for their collaborations with SEGA, including MadWorld for the Wii and Bayonetta for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and with Kojima Productions on the upcoming Metal Gear Rising, also for the Xbox 360 and PS3. Prior to the formation of this studio, many of their members worked as a part of Capcom’s Clover Studio, which produced such critically acclaimed titles as God Hand, Okami, and Viewtiful Joe.

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