How can you resist? It's Mario's second (okay, third) foray into 3D? I'm going to let our own Jason Cipriano tell you why the first Mario 3D platformer for handhelds is one you should get your 3DS gamer:
Nintendo seems to have done something very interesting with Mario's latest adventure, in that it appears that they have pulled some inspiration from one of their biggest competitors, the iPhone. Simply put, most of the levels in 3D Land are short, like between two and five minutes short. While Mario games have never been known for expansive gameplay, these levels come up on the really short side, and that's not a bad thing. Gaming on the iPhone has created a new type of portable gamer with a short attention span due to the combination of quick, pick-up-and-play games and cheap, disposable content. Mario 3D Land is definitely not cheap or disposable, but it is quick to pick up and play, making it more appealing for short bursts of gameplay on the go. That's not to say that there isn't a lot of content here; there are oodles, and that should keep completionists gaming in "3D Land" for a very long time.
And outside of some concerns about the less-than-overwhelming difficulty, that sounds like a pretty fair endorsement of the game and the fledgeling handheld to me.
Runner-up: Mario Kart 7
Not to knock Nintendo too much, but they took their sweet time getting a "true" Wii Zelda game out there. Like, this game is on shelves and ready to play right as the big "N" is getting ready to put their current console into mothballs to make way for the Wii U. Still, that's no reason to hate on The Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword--many terrific games came at the tail end of their console generation and I suspect Skyward Sword will go up there as one of those great titles that make gamers think of the Wii fondly (as opposed to the home of endless waggle it's become since its initial release).
Using true Wii controls and the MotionPlus upgrade, players aren't just waggling their swords and waiting for something to happen onscreen, but actually cutting through enemies in a close to 1:1 manner. And it's a first-party Nintendo title, and those tend to have a reputation for being well-produced (if taking a little while to actually get to the market). I can easily see Skyward Sword being the game that moves some of those discounted Wiis off retailers' shelves this holiday season.
Runner-up: Kirby's Return to Dreamland
I mentioned this in yesterday's Best of 2011 list, but it bears repeating again: comedy in games is hard, and it's harder still to make a good game that begins and ends at its gags. It might be easy to forget Portal 2 since it feels like it came out so far back in the year, but it remains some of the most fun you're gamer friends and loved ones will have taxing their brain over the holidays. While it's unlikely they will get stuck on any one puzzle for more than a few minutes, as they get farther into the game, it'll still put their awareness of the environment and knowledge of the many tools (new and old) at their disposal to the test.
Add to that the fact that this late in the game, some retailers might be giving Portal 2 a nice price slash, and it might be a game you'll have to snatch up on impulse.
Okay, this disc includes:
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
- Online multiplayer and Co-op for Peace Walker
- The original 8-bit first and second Metal Gear games
If you know someone who even has a passing interest in the Metal Gear franchise, this is something they'll definitely want. To top it all off with HD remakes of 2, 3, and Peace Walker, and beyond the slightly disappointing omission of the PS1 title Metal Gear Solid, there's really a lot to get excited about here for Kojima-philes.
Runner-up: Tekken Hyrbid Collection
How many more words do we need to write here? Arkham City is the major Batman simulator of 2011 and could really only be duplicated by the horrible process of seeing your own parents murdered by the criminal scum of Gotham, traveling the world to master multiple disciplines of investigation and martial arts, and returning to your home city to inherit your billions. Yeah, so getting a friend the game might simply be the best way to let them live out their Caped Crusader fantasies this holiday season.
While I had some issues with the slight loss of tension of tautness to the world as it became more open (and I combat with Catwoman is... inessential) the overall experience was still a nice building block on the foundation laid down by 2009's Arkham Asylum. The bone-crunching melee combat is back, enhanced by the addition of new moves and gadgets, and the ability to counter multiple enemies is a fresh addition to an already spectacular test of timing.
While it remains to be seen how Warner Brothers/Rocksteady plan to support the game in the future beyond DLC (we could really use some more mysteries up in there), the core package is by far a great use of your gamer's aspirational Batman time this holiday season.
Runner-up: You want Batman, you get Batman.
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