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Headsup: Gaming Going to the Dogs

With the opening volley in the next generation console wars just over the horizon, the release schedule has been a little thin over the summer. Outside of some excellent niche games, it’s been downright bare. This week is little exception, but it does bring with it one marquee title that is already being heralded as the killer app for the new Nintendo DS handheld: Nintendogs.

The basic concept is fairly similar to Neopets or Pokemon games — train your pet, keep it happy, and then, if you want, let it compete for prizes in dog shows. The game is released in three different forms, each one containing six breeds of dog, and rumors are already circulating that additional carts will be released with more breeds further down the line. The game’s lifelike graphics and open-ended gameplay make for an interesting new wrinkle on the “digital pet” idea. It’s unclear to me if every copy of the game contains all eighteen breeds, or if you would need to sync up wirelessly with other players to unlock the additional breeds, but either way, the six breeds provided should allow for plenty of options. Nintendo’s aiming squarely at the “non-gamer” market with this one, and if early signs are any indication, Nintendogs will push more handhelds than any other title going.

The latest installment in the Advance Wars series, Advance Wars: Dual Strike, hits the DS this week, bringing a collective cheer from the tactical RPG set. Previous games in the series have provided serious game-play bang for the buck, so if handheld strategy is your thing, rejoice. For the GBA, there’s a host of Milton Bradley board games and old school videogame classics (think Yar’s Revenge and Pong) available this week, but for the price, I’d pick ’em up used. Had they condensed more titles onto each cartridge, it would have been an instant must-buy, but at three games each and a half-dozen cartridges, I just don’t need digital board games or nostalgia Atari goodness that badly.

So what is there on the street this week if you like your gaming platforms in the full console size? Precious damned little, alas. 187 Ride or Die provides some racing combat action, but with Burnout Revenge and Full Auto not too far off, I’ve got a feeling this one won’t be a classic for the ages. Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance just looks like a bad knockoff of the hugely popular Def Jam: Fight for New York. There’s also a rehash rerelease of a couple of installments of King of Fighters *yawn*.

The only shining gem for consoles this week is Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. With a wide-open destructible environment, it takes the best of last year’s high-quality Spider-Man title, and then hands you a mean, green engine of property damage to play with. The early demo was hellacious fun, and I can’t imagine the full version is any different. The only other title that might be worth looking into is the officially licensed World Series of Poker game, but with a handful of poker games out there already, most folks that want such a thing already have it. On the upside, the licensed version streets for $29.99.

PC gamers? Suck it. Nothing whatsoever of note for you this time around. I think there’s a sequel to Big Mutha Truckers or something. Buy a console next time the new hotness demands a videocard upgrade, and you won’t have this problem any more.

Buy Nintendogs: Chihuahua from Amazon.
Buy Nintendogs: Dachshund from Amazon.
Buy Nintendogs: Labrador Retriever from Amazon.
Buy Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction for the PS2 from Amazon.
Buy Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction for the Xbox from Amazon.
Buy Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction for the GameCube from Amazon.