Take a look back at the ridiculously quality-packed holiday season of 2007. It may seem like an awfully hard act to follow, sure. But let's not forget about all those heavy-duty games that got pushed into 2008 as developers tried to get the hang of newfangled technology. Some of the biggest franchises in gaming have new outings due this year, and plenty of competitors are bringing their A-game to go head-to-head with these juggernauts. So, as the new year gets rolling, it's a perfect time to take another big-picture look at 10 of the most anticipated games on each system. This time, with so many intriguing-looking games coming our way, we didn't want to double up coverage of individual titles -- so for multiplatform releases, we picked the version we expect to lead the pack. You'll find handy links to the other versions in each writeup. Don't like our choices? Hop on over to the message boards and contribute your own additions to the lists!
While Nintendo is still selling Wiis as fast as they can make them, big-name titles have continued to be fairly few and far between. Will 2008 deliver more of the goods gamers crave? Let's find out.
Publisher: Electronic Arts Developer: Electronic Arts Release Date: Fall
What is it? A puzzle game in which players attempt to eliminate a structure created from up to 20 different kinds of blocks by throwing different objects at it with the Wii remote. Sort of like Tetris, in reverse. Or Jenga, with much bigger explosions.
Why should I care? Simple as that may sound, it's the level editor that's got us most intrigued. With blocks of different properties and a robust physics engine, it's possible to create vast Rube Goldberg contraptions that fling explosive blocks across a level, or elaborate torture devices for the game's cartoony characters.
What's the prognosis? Well, Boom Blox is the brainchild of Steven Spielberg, who was so charmed by the Wii that he decided he simply had to get in on some of that action. We're pretty sure he's not going to let the game suck.
Bully: Scholarship Edition
Publisher: Rockstar Games Developer: Rockstar Vancouver Release Date: March Also On: 360
[Bully: Scholarship Edition]
What is it? The PS2's schoolyard adventure makes an appearance on the Wii, giving everyone who missed it the first time the chance to check out this underappreciated gem.
Why should I care? Because not only is the original game really, really good -- really! -- this version gets a whole bunch of new content. Look for eight new missions, four new minigames, a new head-to-head two-player mode, and of course the obligatory motion controls.
What's the prognosis? Solid. It looks like Rockstar's being sensible about the move to Wii, and not going overboard with adding waggle just for the sake of waggle. We are, however, looking forward to beating up classmates, Wii Sports boxing-style.
Publisher: THQ Developer: Blue Tongue Release Date: June
What is it? A puzzle game in which you play as, er, a blob. An evil corporation has outlawed color -- your job is to go around and paint the town red...or yellow, or blue, or pretty much any color combination you can come up with.
Why should I care? Say what you will about the premise, the game is charming as hell. It's got a sort of stylish, simplistic Katamari thing going for it, and the character design is just adorable. The idea of saving sad, monochromatic multitudes with explosions of color is enough to brighten even our own black hearts.
What's the prognosis? It's just may be crazy enough to work. In early versions we found the controls a little hard to get used to, but it seems like these issues are being ironed out. We're not sure if it'll be the next Katamari, but it's got a chance.
Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors
Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Square Enix Release Date: February
[Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors]
What is it? A sort of on-rails role-playing game in the legendary Dragon Quest universe. Working through the game in a first-person perspective, the player swings the Wii remote to attack and defend against monsters found along the way.
Why should I care? Well for one thing, it's not a friggin' collection of minigames. For another, in spite of the unorthodox setup, it really is a Dragon Quest game -- it's got the feel of the series down pat, and comes with a full complement of localized voice acting and a suitably orchestral score.
What's the prognosis? Solid, if perhaps not spectacular. We've played the Japanese version, and in spite of some complaints in the control department we had a damn good time with it.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers
Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Square Enix Release Date: Your guess is as good as ours, buddy
[Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers]
What is it? The sequel to the Gamecube's multiplayer-focused Crystal Chronicles, The Crystal Bearers will shift the focus a bit to enhance the single-player experience. That's not to say it won't include multiplayer, just that it should also be entertaining solo.
Why should I care? This is an interesting direction for the Final Fantasy franchise, not just because of the multiplayer but also because of the action focus. We're also pretty intrigued by the fact that the main character of the game actually starts out as a hero, which is something of a departure from the more traditional formula of a plucky-but-inexperienced youth who goes on to save all of existence as we know it. It'll be nice to actually be a badass from the start.
What's the prognosis? Honestly, we're not holding our breaths that this actually makes it out -- or at least makes it Stateside -- this year. But we can dream, can't we?
Mario Kart Wii
Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Nintendo Release Date: Spring
[Mario Kart Wii]
What is it? Only the latest entry in one of the most entertaining competitive racing games ever. The game takes a cast of well-known Nintendo characters, crams them into tiny cars, and sends them careening through whimsical levels filled with power-ups and weapons.
Why should I care? Because Mario Kart is damn fun, that's why. And also because the game will support up to 12 players online (and is rumored to somehow bypass the whole friend-code debacle). And because it'll come packaged with a cute little steering wheel to snap your Wii remote into. What more do you want?
What's the prognosis? Oh, come on -- has there ever been a Mario Kart game that wasn't a complete blast?
Publisher: Capcom Developer: Ready at Dawn Release Date: March Also On: PS2
What is it? One of the great no-brainers of gaming. When Okami came out for the PS2, its unique, drawing-focused gameplay made just about everyone say, "Hey, this should be a Wii game!" Lo and behold, here it is.
Why should I care? Because this is one of those unorthodox games that just doesn't fit into any convenient boxes. It's gorgeous, but unusual in its look. The gameplay is simple, but utterly unlike most other roaming adventures. It won a lot of best-of-2006 awards, and rightly so. The fact that it can now reach a whole new audience proves there is justice in the world.
What's the prognosis? Our only concern is that some of the attacks may require a bit more finesse than is reasonable to expect out of a Wii remote. But with the proficient Ready at Dawn behind the translation, we're not too worried about it.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Publisher: LucasArts Developer: Krome Studios Release Date: Summer Also On: DS, PS2, PS3, PSP, 360
[Star Wars: The Force Unleashed]
What is it? Set between the events of the last and first Star Wars flicks (we'll give you a sec to figure that out...yeah, that'd be between Episodes III and IV), The Force Unleashed puts you in the role of Darth Vader's secret apprentice, who brings the full power of the Dark Side to help him hunt down those pesky Jedi.
Why should I care? Lightsabers! Controlled with your Wii remote! (Like that wasn't the first thing you thought of when you tried out a Wii for the first time.) Not only that, but this version will feature a system-exclusive two-player duel mode.
What's the prognosis? Does it matter? You'll be able to control a lightsaber with a Wii remote!
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Nintendo Release Date: March
[Super Smash Bros. Brawl]
What is it? The game Nintendo fans have been salivating over since back when the Wii was still the Revolution. It's a simple, frenzied fighting game with just about every significant Nintendo character ever, plus a bunch of special guests.
Why should I care? Look, this game is just enormous. It's essentially a fighting game, sure, but there's so many extra modes and so much unlockable stuff that it almost seems like straight-up fighting is the smallest part. It's a great trip through Nintendo history, to boot, with stages coming from loads of different games and somewhere around 40 characters. Plus: online play!
What's the prognosis? We recently imported the game from Japan, and what we've played so far simply rocks. Assuming someone doesn't play a cruel joke on us between now and March, Wii owners should be very happy with this one.
Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Nintendo Release Date: TBA
What is it? Your chance to make music with a wave of the arm. Wii Music will let you conduct an orchestra, play the drums, and doubtless perform other musical activities simply through intuitive motions of the Wii remote.
Why should I care? With the success of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, music games are white-hot right now. But with the Wii's broad demographic, not everyone who owns the system is into that dirty devil-music that underpins those games. A more symphonic game should address these more refined tastes in a manner not seen since Mad Maestro.
What's the prognosis? Delicate. What we've seen so far has been little more than a tech demo, but we're assured the game's on track for an '08 release. We're looking forward to seeing more, that's for sure.