Naturally, after repeating the same feature one year later back in 2011, I've decided that it would be nothing but compulsary to write a 2012 edition of the games I'm most looking forward to that are scheduled for or are likely to be released within the next twelve months. Before I begin I should note that a number of rules apply to this list. First off, I've been thinking a lot about incorporating journalism based around gaming outside of Nintendo onto the blog, but that will not start here, meaning that this post is based solely around games found on Nintendo consoles (multiplatform titles still count, mind). The second rule is rather obvious, but I'll still point it out regardless; Games confirmed to be in the works such as No More Heroes 3 and Pikmin 3 that haven't had any footage or screenshots related to the game shown-off are excluded from this list, however much I am looking forward to Suda's next masterpiece and Nintendo's upcoming greats. Now that these two rules are out of the way, I can hardly wait to begin. Welcome to the 2012 edition of My Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of the year. Some sacrifices had to be made (Tekken 3D Prime Edition and MH3G in case you're wondering), but ultimately these are then ten games I'm most looking forward to that are set to be released in the next 12 months. Let's get started, shall we?
We begin this list with the 3DS follow-up to a Gamecube title that I'm to this day rather disappointed at myself for missing out on. Countless games, new and old, have left Luigi's Mansion in the shadows where it surely won't be purchased by yours truly for a while, which is a shame because it's a game that has mostly received a fair amount of praise from those who have played it. Based around the interesting gameplay quirk of Mario's less chubby brother Luigi being scared out of his dungarees (not literally, that would be disgusting), the Gamecube's undeniable ultimate launch title involved the scaredy-cat plumber setting out on a short but sweet mission to rescue his brother from a mansion with the help of a titular device known as the Poltergust 3000. Why would he need this ridiculous excuse for a modified vacuum cleaner, you ask? Quite simply, because the mansion is filled with dastardly ghosts and other such 'horrors' that Luigi had to face up to and engage in some professional ghost bustin'. The quirky gameplay mechanics were undeniably original and some of the most celebrated aspects of Luigi's Mansion, but despite the game being liked by many, praise isn't the only form of feedback the title received. Sub-par graphics and a disappointingly short story with next to no incentive to be replayed held the game back, and if you're not a fan of its gameplay you're undeniably not going to like the Luigi's Mansion at all.
Luckily, with the help of a small Canadian development team, Nintendo are set to impress with the totally unexpected and superior-sounding sequel to the title that kick-started the Gamecube with a mediocre bang, which we saw announced at last years E3 conference. We haven't seen much of Luigi's Mansion 2 since that event, but when Reggie Fils-Aime talked of a much-increased quantity of game time before the player will reach the end credits, after conquering not one, but several mansions, not forgetting apparently astounding 3D visuals that seem perfectly suited to the new 3DS sequel, Nintendo and their Canadian chums look to right the supposed wrongs that the original game set in stone. I may not have played Luigi's Mansion, but I'm definitely looking forward to Luigi's Mansion 2 with high levels of anticipation.
9. Beyond the Labyrinth
At the number 9 spot on this list of piqued anticipation, we find what is most definitely the quirkiest and most obscure game of all ten of these titles, and you'll discover why in a moment. At its core, this game is a dungeon crawler. You know, those boring games in which you trawl around a generic, block-based dungeon and fight un-animated baddies for general RPG-style reward reaping? The DS had a fair few of these titles released for only a select few; those who are fans of randomly generated, albeit rather unexciting dungeon exploration. I seem to be wailing on dungeon crawlers a lot, despite my RPG loving roots, but there's no denying that most of the time these games aren't exactly masterpieces. The game that takes the numero nueve spot on this list, however, looks to change that sad but true fact. Some might say it even goes 'Beyond' what we've ever seen before in a dungeon-crawling game. Beyond the Labyrinth is a 3DS game in which you explore a floor-based dungeon doing the usual levelling-up, fighting enemies and discovering hidden treasure chests and other such standardised malarkey found in most other games of this ilk. However, this game has a fair few tricks up its sleeve - the first of which being the fact that, quite simply, it looks absolutely gorgeous. The locales you find yourself in while delving deeper into the labyrinth are far away from ordinary dungeon-crawler fare, and instead opt for some truly beautiful areas in both a graphical and artistic sense. And of course, there's no need to mention that the game is fully 3D, which can only make things even more immersive.
Also unique about Beyond the Labyrinth aside from its amazing visuals is the character that accompanies your seemingly invisible, and personality-lacking party of four: A young girl called, well, whatever you want to call her. Naming isn't the only element of customisation surrounding this character, either, as you can also fully customise her clothing to an incredible extent through drawing on the touch screen. The biggest push to make Beyond the Labyrinth more enjoyable than its predecessors, however, is the girl's personality. She accompanies your party with truly brilliant animations displaying her sheer amazement at the locations you find yourself in, as well as voice acting, another key thing your team lacks. This alone looks to inject oh-so much more human characterisation into the game, making it much more interesting than text-based RPGs of the past. There's no denying that Beyond the Labyrinth could change the dying face of dungeon-crawlers, and it'd be a real shame if the game wasn't released here in the UK.
8. Animal Crossing 3DS
Moving onwards, we find ourselves arriving at the number eight spot with a game that is undeniably going to see release in the UK, unlike the title you just read about. And, much like the game at the number ten spot on this list, I've never played any of its predecessors. It looks like Animal Crossing's 3DS debut will be the first game I buy from the acclaimed, yet boycotted life-sim series. Every time a new Animal Crossing game is released, people do little other than complain because apparently they tend to suffer from a lack of changes from past titles. The series' most recent instalment, Wii's Let's Go to the City, seemed to receive the most complaints as it was described as virtually identical to its predecessors, with the only new additions being the universally hated Animal Tracks mode and a minuscule city location. Luckily, the Animal Crossing title we'll see on 3DS later this year looks to actually make some drastic changes from previous releases, while still keeping the same core structure the series is known for.
For those who aren't aware, Animal Crossing is usually based around the idea of moving into a small village populated by numerous crazy personalities portrayed by cartoony humanoid animals. It sounds mad, but the main thing that sucks people into these games is just how plain addictive they are. If you don't check up on your town everyone once in a while, flowers will die out, your neighbours will get frustrated with you, you'll need to catch up on paying the rent, and so on and so forth. This basic concept is retained in Animal Crossing 3DS, but a bunch of new elements and refinements have been introduced in the process. This game was pretty much made for SpotPass and StreetPass, and it seems Nintendo have realised that fact and have implemented various features making use of these tools. Naturally, with SpotPass, downloadable content will be downloaded straight to your 3DS as long as you have your system connected to the Internet. On the StreetPass side of things, other 3DS users who play the game that you come across via the feature will appear in a number of special households in your game, so you can check out their fancy items and such, which is a neat addition. Throw in the standardised Nintendo-based items and easter eggs, life-stealing gameplay and righteous customisation options of past Animal Crossing games, and this release will surely be a bite-size winner - not to mention an opportunity for me to finally get into the series.
7. Kingdom Hearts: Dream, Drop, Distance
As I mentioned in the most recent update post here on the blog, I love Kingdom Hearts 2. It was ultimately a very flawed game, but the sheer charm it bombarded the player with was unbelievable, and playing through the awesome story of the game throughout last year's summer holidays practically made my six weeks off. For those not in the know, Kingdom Hearts is a series based around the various worlds of Square-Enix, such as Final Fantasy and the like; and Disney, quite possibly the most well-known animated studio in the world, renowned for their work on countless animated films (although I can't say I'm a fan), both crashing together and being mixed in with a complex plot focused on a boy named Sora, and his to-be accomplices Donald and Goofy. I could go on and on about Kingdom Hearts lore, but let's stay on topic here - Kingdom Hearts: Dream, Drop, Distance on 3DS is the last Kingdom Hearts game to be released before the much-anticipated Kingdom Hearts 3, a game that many even doubt has been in development all these years since it was first heavily rumoured.
Naturally, this being a sequel to the second main game I enjoyed to a rather large extent last year, I can't wait for it. The DS Kingdom Hearts games were a bit naff from a plot standpoint, which is practically what put me off purchasing them, but with the capabilities of the 3DS, DDD will undoubtedly be at least as quality as the fantastic Birth by Sleep, the most recent Kingdom Hearts game, unfortunately PSP exclusive. DDD will bridge the gap between Kingdom Hearts 2 and 3, which is enough to get me excited for certain, but it's another aspect of this 3DS release that has me even more psyched. I'm talking of course, about the inclusion of a certain pack of characters from The World Ends with You, my favourite handheld game at present. Call it a tad fanboy-like, but I can't help but think of this inclusion as a rather big hint at a sequel to the game the characters appeared in. Enough about that, though. From a gameplay standpoint, DDD looks rather similar to what we've seen in previous instalments, which certainly isn't a bad thing. Expect a heap of Disney and Square worlds to explore, as well as those lovely key plot segments that pop up on odd occasions. Quite frankly, this could be one of the best games to see release on the 3DS all year, even though my excitement for it is largely due to the fact it'll star characters from the developers' greatest creation. Moving swiftly on...
6. Pandora's Tower
I implied earlier on in this post that 3DS title Beyond the Labyrinth is quite possibly the most quirky and Japanese game on this list. Well, sorry for jumping to conclusion, folks, because I might just be wrong - and it's all thanks to an upcoming Wii game by the name of Pandora's Tower. The first Wii game you'll have spotted on this list also happens to be one of the last to see release on the console itself, as the next generation of a home console by Nintendo will begin to devour anything of a further release schedule when Pandora's Tower, not forgetting a few other final treats for Wii owners, are unleashed upon the UK later this year. Pandora's Tower is the next game in Nintendo of Europe's un-named localisation project, which has included the likes of Monster Hunter Tri, Xenoblade Chronicles and in a few days time, The Last Story. So, this being a rather 'Japanese' game, it's looking and sounding suitably bonkeroony. It shares a similar art style to those of the aforementioned Xenoblade and Last Story, albeit in a more action-adventure focused shell rather than a JRPG one.
The game's protagonist, Ende, is out on a quest to conquer thirteen towers for the sole purpose of curing his friend Ceres' newfound infection, inflicted on her by a race of monsters. At the climax of each of these towers is a mythical beast, the meat of which must be carved out by Ende and fed to the once singing, now mutating Ceres. There's one problem, though, being that Ceres is unfortunately a vegetarian. Expect some scenes of digust as she attempts to chow down throughout the game, then. The gameplay is comparable to something like Zelda or Shadow of the Colossus, as the player, controlling Ende, explores dungeons solving puzzles and the like, and of course, slaying some enemies along the way. He'll do this with the help of the Orichalcum Chain, a weapon set to apparently make good use of the Wii's motion controls. The Chain appears to be a sole focus of the game, as it will be used in all kinds of ways in order for Ende to progress and get his mitts on that all-important monster meat. A mysterious travelling merchant by the name of Graiai (yes, I too think that it's the most ridiculous name ever bestowed upon anyone, let alone someone with a demon on their back) will also assist Ende on his jolly way, Resident Evil 4 style. Of course, Pandora's Tower has already been out in Japan for quite a while, with a number of relatively good review scores from the likes of Famitsu who gave it a 31 out of 40, and CVG who granted the game a decent 7.1/10. I'm not one to judge a game from two review scores, mind you, so I'm still looking forward to this release with much anticipation. All I can say for now is, roll on April 13th!
And so, we reach the end of the first part of this feature. It's been a little more lengthy than I expected thus far, so I've split it into two. I'll have the final five on this list posted in a number of days!