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The end of summer means the beginning of the game season, and today is the last Friday before the game industry’s big holiday push. Publishers jam the fall with games to challenge the true worth of your credit card – a double dog dare in the uncertain economy of 2009. And contrary to what you might have heard about a handful of games shifting into 2010 (some of which is true), this fall is still bursting at the seams with an enormous lineup of top-notch games. Here are the most noteworthy ones to look forward to in the coming months.
THE BIG PICK
The Beatles: Rock Band (PS3, 360, Wii)
Release Date: Sept. 9
Aerosmith? Metallica? Van Halen? Small fry! MTV Games has gone for the jugular by securing the biggest band in the world (you know, from 40 years ago), The Beatles. And now, for only $250, you can own even more plastic guitars, a three-part melody device, drums and a little disc, all so you can relive your parents' teen years. (The instrument-free game is $59.99).
Harmonix's song selection is expertly picked. You'll get more than 30 master-tape recordings from The Beatles, including Twist and Shout from the early Cavern Club days, Eight Days a Week as performed at Shea Stadium, and Dig a Pony from the Apple Corps Rooftop Concert, among others.
Perhaps best of all is that three full downloadable albums will follow: Abbey Road (October 20), Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (November), and Rubber Soul (December). It's going to be a very merry Beatles holiday.
Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (DS)
Release Date: Sept. 14
Sure, it's a little game for a little system, but don't be fooled: this Mario RPG puts the shrunken Mario and Luigi through a challenging adventure inside Bowser's belly. You'll play in turns as Mario and Luigi, and directly and indirectly as Bowser himself.
This strange little thing plays with proportions, enabling miniature versions of Mario and Luigi to solve puzzles in Bowser's stomach (and presumably, at some point, his butt) that trigger reactions from Bowser himself. Assuming the duo uses an orifice of some kind to escape, and it's doubtfully Bowser's mouth, one has to wonder what the end boss looks like (that's right, we said end boss).
Release Date: Sept. 15
Hello Scribblenauts, goodbye… day job? Developer 5th Cell has once again out-thought everyone else (remember Drawn to Life?) by inventing a brilliant little action-puzzle game using words as the core game concept – tens of thousands of words.
Using a massive database and matching animations, 5th Cell offers gamers the chance to help little Maxwell solve puzzles and collect "Starites." How to you get the glimmering Starite from a tall tree? Type in "chainsaw," and a chainsaw appears; type "beaver," and it gnaws the tree down. This accessible little game appears perfect for kids, wordsmiths, hardcore gamers, and just about everyone else.
Halo 3: ODST (360)
Release Date: Sept. 22
Screw Master Chief and his superhero ways (and those silly man cannons)! Bungie has decided it’s way more fun to play as ordinary humans with ordinary weapons…
Halo 3: ODST is sort of like a super-duper add-on pack. The single-player campaign tells the story of the insane Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs) through a series of flashbacks in an open-world setting. The multiplayer offers three new maps (Citadel, Longshore, and Heretic), and delivers Bungie’s own take on multiplayer survival modes, Firefight. We're just guessing, but this will probably be big.
Guitar Hero 5 (PS3, 360, Wii, PS2)
Release Date: Sept. 1
After four years of consecutive Guitar Hero games, there are apparently millions of people who still aren't sick of Guitar Hero. Therefore, Activision introduces Guitar Hero 5, which is totally different than Activision's other Guitar Hero games for this fall, Band Hero and Guitar Hero Van Halen. Those are different. As in, they have different names and songs and featurey stuff.
Correcting the difficulties that surfaced with Guitar Hero World Tour (namely trying to set up a song with three other humans in fewer than 10 minutes), Guitar Hero 5 introduces Party Play mode, enabling you to seamlessly jump in and out of songs without affecting song progression. Plus, you can play songs by The Rolling Stones, The White Stripes, Kings of Leon, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Santana and Vampire Weekend, to name a few. Time to party like it's the 1,999th time you've played this game!
Champions Online (PC, 360)
Release Date: Sept. 1 (360 version’s release TBD)
Created by the geniuses behind City of Heroes and City of Villains, the action-based MMORPG Champions Online is designed to steal your life. Not just a few hours here and there: Your whole life.
First, you'll have access to countless customization options to create your own hero (developer Cryptic says you'll have "millions" of options) and form a team. You'll protect Millennium City from the treacherous Doctor Destroyer, Mechanon, Qwyjibo, Kigatilik, Grond and other impossible-to-pronounce bad guys by pummeling them in real-time combat across a vast, imaginative landscape including outer space and alternate dimensions. If you have any MMOC (massively multiplayer online cojones) at all, your superhero squad will beat the living daylights out of the Qularr (evil aliens) and send them packing.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (DS)
Release Date: Sept. 29
Pushing the little DS to its limits, Square Enix has put the final touches on the American version of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. Following an absolutely wacky storyline, lead character Sora turns the Keyblade on himself (to release Kairi's heart), but it releases his own heart in the process – which then unleashes his own "Nobody," Roxas.
Us? We just thank God for Japanese video game narratives. Now you'll have to play the game to understand what the hell we just wrote in the above paragraph.