2005 was a good year for games. Still, while Shadow of the Colossus and Civilization 4 will undoubtedly keep me busy for a while, I can’t help but look forward to the next big game. Fortunately for all gamers, 2006 is shaping up to be another good year. Though many of the offerings are still shrouded in mystery, and many more will probably not be announced until much later, there are still titles to get excited about, no matter what kind of game you prefer. Here are my top ten picks, all of which I will be keeping an eye on.
10. Tales of Phantasia (GBA)
I’ve heard a lot about the original Tales of Phantasia, but never played it, partly because it was never released over here. Still, I had some friends who claimed it was among the greatest RPGs ever made. I was therefore excited to see that it was being brought to the GBA. Every now and then I’m in the mood for a good RPG, and since this is apparently a classic, I’d really like to get my hands on it. Okay, I guess technically it’s not a new release, but it is to me. So there.
9. Cowboy Bebop (PS2)
Part of me knows that games based on beloved franchises usually end up disappointing. The other, less rational part of me is pretty much just like “woohoo, Cowboy Bebop!” I’m a big fan of the anime, and think that if handled well it could make a pretty sweet game. Fans of the anime can at least know that the game soundtrack is good: it features Yoko Kanno’s jazzy compositions, and the original Japanese voice actors (although it remains to be seen if they will be replaced in the English version). There’s lots of room for variation in the gameplay, from kung-fu fighting sequences to stealth to puzzle solving while tracking down bounties—to name a few possibilities. I want this game to be good, and will be crossing my fingers that they get it right.
8. Electroplankton (DS)
This is the kind of quirky title that makes me think it might be time to break down and buy a DS. Electroplankton is really interactive aurally, where you can use different aquatic creatures in different ways to make different sounds. It looks to provide the opportunity for real creativity. Even if it’s not something you can play with for hours at a time, it seems to be a game that one could pick up for a little while at a time just to play around and make music. I have to say, as simple as it is, I am excited about it. Another reason to buy a DS.
7. .hack//GU Volume 1: RESURRECTION (PS2)
Even though I never came close to finishing them, I really enjoyed the .hack series for PS2. Even though I don’t think I can ever bring myself to start them over, that doesn’t mean I don’t have high hopes for this, the sequel to the last series of .hack games. It looks like this series of three games is going to be somewhat darker and edgier (the main theme is “growing up”), and I’m hoping that the plot will be as good as the plot of the last series. In addition, perhaps the combat system could be revamped a little? I have to say it got a little repetitive at times. One to keep an eye one, particularly if you enjoyed the previous games.
6. Katamari Damacy (DS)
Alright, so technically this hasn’t really been confirmed yet, but still! This alone would be reason enough to own a DS. Consider the possibilities: using the stylus in various ways to maneuver the katamari, by poking it, or dragging it, or whatever other ways they dream up. Playing with other people online could potentially work very well. Really, the DS could work very nicely for Katamari Damacy. And given it’s surprising popularity, I would be very surprised if Nintendo decided against it. I’ll be watching for more information as the year goes on.
5. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (PC)
I very much enjoyed Morrowind. It was like a MMORPG but without all the irritating other people. I played hours and hours of it, until my poor little elf thief got into a situation that she just couldn’t escape from. That said, I am really looking forward to wasting more time with the next Elder Scrolls. Plenty of things to do, but an overarching plot to keep me focused—that’s what I liked about Morrowind, and I’m hoping Oblivion will be even better. It’s also coming to the Xbox 360, if you’re an Xbox fan. Me, I’ll take the PC version.
4. Chibi Robo (GCN)
An adorable little robot and the potential for complex puzzles—what’s not to like? I really enjoy a good puzzle, but it often seems like there are so few games that really focus on puzzles over fighting and action. I have high hopes for Chibi Robo. It looks as if it has a large environment (relative to the little robot, of course) and varied puzzles. All in all, it looks quite charming, and initial reports are positive. Definitely one I plan on picking up as soon as possible.
3. Spore (PC)
I have very high hopes for this title. Will Wright has a history of making incredibly detailed and addictive sim games, and this looks to be his most ambitious project to date. From humble beginnings as a single-celled creature, to a society capable of exploring the galaxy, you control the evolution of a species. As a biology nerd, I can’t help but get excited about this game!
First of all, it’s so open-ended, one could conceivably play over and over again and never get the same results twice. I also love the idea that all the other creatures you encounter were designed by other players. It’s not an online game, but the ecosystems of the planet (and, indeed, the entire galaxy) are populated by creatures drawn from a master server. There are different stages to the game, from creating an individual creature to manipulating societies and cities for the species, which means more variation and strategy in gameplay. The game is certainly very ambitious, but I’m still hoping we could see it this year. I will be watching this one very carefully.
2. Okami (PS2)
This is one game that sort of came out of nowhere and stunned me. The screenshots looked sort of odd, but once I saw some gameplay footage I was completely and utterly convinced. The visuals are unique and stunning, in a Japanese brushwork style that seems to fit perfectly with the mythological framework of the game. Amaterasu, a Japanese sun god, takes on wolf form in this game, and it looks like you’ll be able to pull off all sorts of agile moves as you work to bring color and life back into the world. In addition, I’m very excited about the idea of the celestial brush that you use to make changes to the world—building bridges, breaking boulders, and more. It is looking to be a really awesome adventure game, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Plus wolves are just cool in general.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GCN)
Without a doubt, the game I am most looking forward to this year. First of all, it’s Zelda, and that automatically makes it worthy of anticipation in my book. Second, it looks like Nintendo is finally giving their fans what they have been asking for: a darker, more grown-up version of the game they grew up with. Now, I personally would never want to see a really “adult” Legend of Zelda, with blood and guts and such, and I really enjoyed Wind Waker. Still, when I saw the trailer for Twilight Princess my heart leapt. The game is looking very slick, and though graphics aren’t the most important part of a game it certainly doesn’t hurt if the game is pretty.
What else excites me about this game? Well, horseback fighting, for one. I like the creepy enemies found in the twilight realm—some of them remind me of the Shadow Temple in Ocarina of Time, and some almost make me think of H. P. Lovecraft’s creatures. In addition, who can deny the awesomeness that is Link turning into a wolf? The possibility of more in-depth puzzles and swordplay! And, dare I dream, the return of the fishing mini-game from Ocarina of Time! Just reading up on this game to write this article has me all giddy. If you haven’t already done so, I recommend checking out the trailer from E3. I can only hope that this game makes its April release date.
2006 is looking to be a good year, and there’s still a lot that’s yet to be announced. In addition, there’s the Revolution and PS3 to be released, undoubtedly with a bevy of games each. Best start saving up now—or regret it later.