The Legend of Zelda: Skyward SwordKicking off this list not only with a title I've already played and loved to pieces, but what I personally would consider to be the best game released in the whole of 2011. As stated in my recent Christmas Update, it's not been the best twelve months for video games. The first three quarters of the year have seen very few truly stellar games released across just about every platform, so when the latest home console release in Nintendo's finest franchise was finally available to be played by the public after 3 years of waiting since announcement and over half a decade of development, stating that it was something special would be a dramatic understatement. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is an absolutely stunning game in every department, and one that brought us our gaming fix after many months of only relatively good games occasionally hitting the shelves.
When I say 'us', I'm referring to the people who've actually played Skyward Sword. A fair few have decided to leave the latest Legend of Zelda instalment under wraps until Christmas, which is a wise decision as I'm sure this game will make their festive season all the more amazing. Skyward Sword, in my opinion, is the greatest Zelda game ever created, which is a rather bold statement. It packs so many things that made past titles brilliant and shoves them all into one all-new, fresh experience - One that shows that, with the help of 1:1 Motion control, the series has finally evolved after many titles followed the same gameplay pattern and structure. It's easy to tell that Nintendo weren't lying when they stated the latest title in the Zelda series is the one game they've put the most money, time and effort into in all their time in the industry. I'm saving my full opinions of the game for my review which will be posted in the coming months, but for now all I can say is this: If you haven't bought it or received it already, you need to get your mitts on this game if you show at least an amount of interest in Nintendo gaming. Who knows, maybe it'll be under your tree this year...
Mario Kart 7
And now for something completely different. Next up is a game I haven't played yet, and am very much hoping to receive this Christmas. Regardless of whether I'll receive Mario Kart 7 tomorrow or not, one fact remains constant: Mario Kart as a series has always been one of the best sets of multiplayer games around, and the seventh instalment, available now on the 3DS, might just be the best release under the celebrated franchise name yet. Combining the brilliant online multiplayer mode of Mario Kart Wii with finely-tuned gameplay to create a thankfully unbroken experience was a master stroke on both Nintendo and Retro Studios' behalf, as the tedius, admittedly ruined gameplay of the previous instalment in the celebrated series has had countless fans raging for what feels like an eon. While I enjoyed the Wii edition of the kart racing series to a certain extent, there's absolutely no denying that what Nintendo did to make the game more 'fair' actually did the complete opposite. A real shame, as it could have been the best Mario Kart game to date if the gameplay was fixed and fair.
Following up to the release of the latest Mario Kart game, the future of the series seemed bright, and now that the title has been released, it certainly is. According to many journalists from publications both online and offline, Mario Kart 7 offers the most finely-tuned experience the series has seen to date. Apparently, the 3DS game feels like the successor to what many consider to be the best game in the series altogether; Mario Kart DS. This claim alone is enough to make me want Mario Kart 7, that is if I didn't wish to have it in my 3DS in the first place. Like Skyward Sword, the latest kart racing game starring a certain mustachioed plumber (among many other Mushroom Kingdom veterans) somewhat revolutionises the tried and tested formula of its predecessors. Elements that have never been seen before in a Mario Kart such as kart customisation and flying and underwater segments that change the flow of gameplay drastically, slyly make their way onto Mario Kart 7 for a fresh take on kart racing with Mario. And let's not forget the three-dimensional visuals that also set this new instalment apart from its predecessors - I haven't seen the 3D in action but I'm informed that it does look rather amazing. In short, I can't wait to play Mario Kart 7. After many hours of getting annoyed at the Wii version's frustratingly broken antics, it will certainly be refreshing to go back to fair (if a bit mental) kart racing with everyone's favourite plumber.
Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call
If you checked out my review of Professor Layton and the Lost Future earlier this year, you'll know for a fact that I'm a massive fan of the series. Every Christmas since the series' first instalment, I've received each yearly subsequent Professor Layton game as a gift, so rest assured I'm hoping to receive the first in the Professor Layton prequel trilogy, not to mention the last DS game starring the top-hatted Professor before the series hits 3DS, tomorrow. Developers Level-5 are going all Star Wars with the fourth game in the series, The Spectre's Call, as it will detail the origins of Hershel Layton becoming a full on self-employed investigator and puzzle master, and the birth of his companionship with Luke Triton, the cockney-boy apprentice who has annoyed many with his infuriating vocals throughout the whole of the original trilogy. Knowing that this is a prequel to those titles, Luke wouldn't have hit puberty yet, unfortunately. Less unfortunate is the fact that Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call is set to be another great adventure in the series, according to various sources.
I certainly have my doubts that the fourth game in the Professor Layton saga will top the absolutely excellent Lost Future when it comes to story, but in the gameplay department Spectre's Call will no doubt be as good as ever. Each subsequent Layton release has seen more and more content injected into it in the form of more and more puzzles to solve, and more animated full motion videos that tell each story in style. Apparently, albeit not surprisingly, they've managed to top the last instalment's puzzle and animated cutscene count in the latest game. There are a whopping 180 conundrums to solve in the fourth game, which should keep us glued to the game for a good amount of time. Unfortunately, the time European players could've put into playing Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call could have been a lot more than it is. London Life, a 100+ hour life sim RPG set to be included in the Spectre's Call package, was forced to be removed from the European version. This is pretty frustrating, but that's not to say it's not within reason. Still, despite the removal of what could've made the Professor Layton series' fourth release all the more special, it's still undeniably going to be a stellar release, and one of the DS's last hurrahs. Hopefully I'll find it sitting under the tree tomorrow morning...
And so, there you have it. There are many other titles I would've loved to detail in this post, such as Super Mario 3D Land and Cave Story 3D, but since I made the ridiculous decision to write this Feature on Christmas Eve, I didn't really have time to write any more than I have before the big day. Regardless, I hope you had a relatively enjoyable experience reading my mindless recommendations, and that you and everyone else who reads the blog has a truly excellent Christmas, and soon, a mesmerising new year... Again, have an awesome time tomorrow (at the time of writing, at least) and hopefully my next post won't seem as rushed!