Nintendo DS/3DS exclusives
The big news for fans of portable Nintendo gaming, of course, is the spring arrival of the 3DS, Nintendo's successor to the DS that allows for 3D viewing of games without the need for special glasses. Though battery life could be an issue -- reportedly, you'll get just 3-5 hours on a single charge -- the graphics seem to be the best yet for a Nintendo portable, even when not in 3D mode.
More details should emerge when the product gets a North American launch date -- with the news coming perhaps as soon as this week. Launch titles for the 3DS are expected to include a new Professor Layton title, Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, and Ridge Racer 3D. Dozens of 3DS titles are expected later in the year; a few of the bigger ones are listed below, along with games for the standard DS.
Animal Crossing 3D [3DS]
Reportedly the best-looking game in the Animal Crossing franchise, this new 3DS title uses its three-dimensional effects subtly, to add depth to the environment, so don't expect anything to come shooting out of the screen at you as you execute your duties as mayor. (Congrats on that promotion, by the way.)
Kid Icarus: Uprising [3DS]
Some of you may not have been alive when the last Kid Icarus game (1991's Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters) was released, but fans of that Game Boy title are happy to finally have a sequel. This third-person shooter finds the hero Pit taking flight to battle a reborn Medusa. Expect it to be one of the best-looking early releases for the new 3DS platform.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3DS [3DS]
A 3D-capable remake of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time? Say hello to your first purchase for your new 3DS.
Mario Kart 3DS [3DS]
It's hard to find a bad Mario Kart game, and the addition of 3D should inject some novelty into the long-running series, in addition to helping your precision when controlling your vehicle.
Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D: The Naked Sample [3DS]
Frustratingly few details have emerged so far about whether this 3DS version of the PS2 stealth action title will be a straight port of the earlier game, or offer new content (other than the 3D effects); either way, it should keep 3DS owners busy for a while when it arrives sometime this year.
One of the highest-scoring titles released for the Wii (and before that, the PS2), the action-adventure game Ōkami is finally getting a sequel, and it is exclusive to the DS. Gameplay is extremely similar to the original game (with the obvious addition of utilizing touch-screen controls), but Ōkamiden's story begins anew, months after the first game's conclusion.
Pokémon Black and White
Still going strong, the Pokémon RPG series returns in 2011 with Black and White versions, unleashing over 150 new pocket monsters on the world. If you like the series, you'll probably like these; they've been selling like crazy in Japan, where they have also received strong reviews.
Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney [3DS]
That's no misprint; two of the DS' leading franchises are indeed coming together for one sure-to-be-big game (in 3D, no less). Even though Phoenix Wright and the good Professor have been transported together to a strange land unfamiliar to both of them, it won't be unfamiliar to veteran players, who will be able to guide the attorney through his latest trial and help Layton solve a series of puzzles. There is a significant catch, however: the game may only come out in Japan. However, American fans of the Ace Attorney series can also look forward to a second (and non-3D) Ace Attorney Investigations game featuring Miles Edgeworth, which should surface in the U.S. later in 2011 after a February release in Japan.
This inventive RPG from Atlus is set in a world where a mysterious disease is slowly turning its inhabitants into sand. That's where your special intelligence agent comes in. After waking up in a parallel world after an accident, you are given the power to jump through space and time, and a chance to alter the timeline for the better.
PlayStation Portable exclusives
While we know with certainty that Nintendo's 3DS will go on sale in 2011, Sony's next-generation portable device is, at this point, only a rumor. But that rumor is starting to pick up steam, and the latest word has Sony introducing the PSP2 to the world in a Tokyo event at the end of this month. Until then, what the device can do -- and when it will go on sale -- is still undetermined. In the meantime, here are some of the top titles for the PSP1 due to arrive in 2011.
Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy
That's "Dissidia Duodecim Final Fantasy" to you. Yes, while the name of this new fighting game could use some work, the new RPG-style single-player story mode could be a step up from the first Dissidia title (though other elements of gameplay return mostly intact).
Monster Hunter Portable 3rd
Though it can be difficult to sort out the titles of Capcom's Monster Hunter games, this is the third stand-alone title in the PSP series (distinct from the console games like Monster Hunter Tri). It's already the fastest-selling PSP game in Japan's history, and action-RPG fans in the States should have a shot at trying all the new monsters, regions, and weapons before the end of the year.
A stylish rhythm game like its two predecessors, Patapon 3 beefs up the multiplayer component, with online and local competitive multiplayer -- for up to eight players at once -- available for every level of the game.
The 3rd Birthday
A belated sequel to the 2000 PlayStation title Parasite Eve 2, Square Enix's The 3rd Birthday blends third-person survival horror with RPG elements. This time, heroine Aya Brea has the power to swap bodies, travel through time, and wear skimpy outfits as she leads the battle against a group of evil creatures known as the Twisted.
What are you looking forward to?
Which games are you most looking forward to this year? Let us know in the comments section below, and don't forget to check out our preview of multi-platform games as well.