Let's get small
With the many huge releases coming to consoles by the end of the 2012, including the long list of Wii U launch games, its easy to forget about our smaller, portable friends at this time of year. And that would be a real shame, because the 3DS and PS Vita both have significant games coming this holiday season, including new entries in franchises as major as Mario and Assassins Creed, plus more niche titles that are worth a second look. Weve wrangled a dozen games you should anticipate playing on your way to grandmas house this December.
Pokmon Black 2 and White 2
Release date: October 7
Breaking the Pokmon tradition of each generation getting a third version, Pokmon Black/White 2 is the first direct sequel in the series, picking up two years after the stellar conclusion to the first B/W. Though it offers little in the way of new monsters, it has a brand new plot that continues the surprisingly deep narrative started in its predecessor. In our Pokmon Black/White 2 review we praised that story, as well as the games many new features, including a World Tournament where you battle classic Gym Leaders from throughout the franchises history. Likely the last new DS game many will play, it sends off the system in style.
Code of Princess
Release date: October 9
Enjoy arcade brawlers in the style of Castle Crashers, but wish they featured a scantily clad anime girl? If so, youll find a lot to love about Code of Princess, a 3DS title from new developer Agatsumo, a team that includes many of the people responsible for the beloved Sega Saturn game Guardian Heroes. The single player campaign stars an embattled princess protecting an ancient sword, and features cutscenes from the animation team behind Cowboy Bebop. And unlike most 3DS games, Code of Princess has robust online features too, including four player co-op and versus modes with more than 50 characters to choose from. It sounds perfect for old school Saturn fans looking for a pseudo-sequel to the systems best beat-em-up.
Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward
Release date: October 23
Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward is a unique game this holiday season, and not just because its one of the few launching on the 3DS and PS Vita at the same time. A sequel of sorts to critical darling Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, Zero Escape is a sinister visual novel, sort of like Professor Layton--only youre solving puzzles inside a brutal death trap with a group of unfortunate survivors. You can either work with your fellow captives or betray them in a desperate attempt to escape the series of murderous challenges. Were betting this dark game earns its M rating in some very twisted ways.
Street Fighter X Tekken
Release date: October 23
When it hit consoles early this year, Street Fighter X Tekken was met with a mix of love and hate from fans. Many enjoyed the 2D mash-up of fighters from two of gamings biggest franchises, but others rejected it for on-disc DLC and balance issues. The game is now coming to the PS Vita with those controversial downloadable characters unlocked from the start, and it offers tons of cross-play options for Vita owners to engage with PS3 players. Can this final, portable iteration of the game win back love from fighting fans?
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
Release date: October 28
A 3DS launch game in Japan, fans of this puzzle series have been waiting a long time for Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask. Set before the first game in the franchise Miracle Mask updates the graphics from the DS entries, but still offers the same mix of ancient mystery, brain-bending puzzles, and stylish anime cutscenes. A bestseller in Japan, were hoping Layton is just as good in three dimensions as he is in two.
Assassin's Creed III: Liberation
Release date: October 30
Out on the same day as the much-anticipated console version of Assaassins Creed III, the Vita exclusive Assaassins Creed III: Liberation is the most high-profile game to come to the Sony handheld yet. Using the same engine as its console brother, Liberation moves from the Colonial east coast to New Orleans to tell the story of Aveline de Grandpr, the first female protagonist in series history. With the action taking place in a mix of towns, wilderness, and swamp land, Aveline will battle Templars and indigenous wildlife, and theres even the promise of her meeting up with ACIIIs star Connor. Additionally, if youre planning to get the PS3 version of ACIII, playing Liberation can unlock certain items in the console game.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Release date: November 11
We hope you havent spent the last decade dismissing the Paper Mario games as too kiddy, because youd be denying yourself some of the wittiest action-RPGs ever made. The first portable entry in the series, Paper Mario: Sticker Star has the same clever script and focus on deceptively simple combat, but simplifies the RPG elements even more, thanks mostly to the stickers this entry is named after. This time our flat mustachioed hero has to save Peach from a sticker-induced calamity by collecting hundreds of decals from the many regions of the Mushroom Kingdom. Made by the same team responsible for the previous outstanding Paper games, we expect this series to translate beautifully to handhelds.
Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion
Release date: November 18
On consoles, the Epic Mickey games are famous with Disney lovers for their esteem and respect for the mouses long history. The 3DSs Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion displays similar amounts of respect for the rodents legacy--but instead of focusing on cartoons from the 1930s, Illusion is a tribute to classic Mickey games. Fans of Segas Castle of Illusion games will appreciate the hand-drawn sprites and 2D platforming, and players can experience stages based on Disney films like Beauty and the Beast and Peter Pan. To be honest, were actually more excited for this one than its bigger console brother.
Persona 4: Golden
Release date: November 20
Originally released for the PS2, we were big fans of Persona 4, an encouragingly mature RPG set in a small, everday Japanese town and high school. Persona 4: Golden has that same small town feel as you go about making friends and joining clubs, while simultaneously searching the dungeons of the otherworldly Midnight Channel and battling spectres representing your deepest secrets and fears. Expanded with new characters, settings, and anime cutscenes, the already rich role-playing game has gotten even deeper on its way to RPG-starved Vita owners.
Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?!
Release date: November 20
One of the weirdest, yet most beloved cartoons in recent memory, Adventure Time is an adorably absurd show thats soon going to infect gaming with its special brand of strangness. Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?! is coming to the DS and 3DS, developed by WayForward (Mighty Switch Force, A Boy and His Blob), and we couldnt think of a better developer for the game. With a fittingly nonsensical story about stolen garbage, the game is warmly reminiscent of Zelda II: Links Adventure, only way more algebraic.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
Release date: November 20
The moment you see PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale in action, the influence of Nintendos Smash Bros games is painfully obvious. But this may not be a bad thing, as PlayStation fans have long hoped for a similar brawler starring their favorite Sony mascots. The roster is exploding with Sony heavyweights like Nathan Drake, Ratchet, and Kratos, plus third-party stars like DmCs Dante, Metal Gear Solids Raiden, and a Big Daddy from BioShock. Though we still have some balancing issues with the game, hopefully theyll be cleared up in time for Vita players to face off against gamers with the PS3 version via cross-play.
Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified
Release date: November(?)
The Vita hasnt had the easiest life since its launch this year, but getting an exclusive portable version of the best-selling franchise on Earth will likely improve those fortunes. Developed by Nihilistic, Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified intends to pack a console experience into the Sony handheld, with the same intense firefights, single-player drama, and deep multiplayer experience the series is known for. The game doesnt have a concrete release date yet, so were still wondering if the devs can fit all that--and hopefully some zombies--onto the Vita by the end of the year.
We hope this taught those of you that underestimate portable games a lesson, proving that a game can be big even if the screen is small. But did we miss any other important portable titles coming out before the end of December? Tell us in the comments!