by Ken Gagne
If your child wants for G.I. Joe or Barbie for Christmas, you better ask what system that's for.
With the recent release of the PlayStation 2, video games are on everyone's mind. Hundreds of software titles have been released for all systems this year, with a deluge of sequels and multiplayer games.
The following greatest hits will be sure to please any gamers who finds them under their Christmas tree.
Nintendo's Pokemon has endured several years on the market, and is still a popular title among kids and adults. Short for "Pocket Monster," Pokemon challenges players to capture many varieties of wild creatures. Captured Pokemon can evolve into higher forms, or bred with other Pokemon to create entirely new species.
Pokemon Silver & Gold are two games for the Game Boy Color. Each game has a unique set of Pokemon to collect; only by connecting two Game Boys and trading between the different versions can all the Pokemon be collected.
If you prefer your virtual pets a bit more on the real side, consider Sega's Seaman, for the Dreamcast. A fish with a human face, Seaman lets its caretaker know in no unclear terms how good a job she's doing. Thanks to the included microphone peripheral, players can converse with their Seaman, who talks back. Seaman understands an impressive range of words, and is extremely inquisitive (some might say prying) about his owner. Due to the sometimes adult conversations, Seaman may not be suitable for young children.
Seaman is one of many offbeat games the Sega Dreamcast offers. Though more traditional fare is available, nobody makes classics like Nintendo does. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, for Nintendo 64, is one such title.
Majora's Mask is the latest in a best-selling series that originated 13 years ago. In this latest Zelda game, gamers become the young hero Link, who has 72 hours to stop the moon from crashing into the world. Those three days repeat in Groundhog Day fashion until Link has accomplished all the tasks set before him. Link must traverse fields, swamps, and mountains to enter sacred temples and revive the guardians who have the power to save the land in this 3D, over-the-shoulder adventure game.
If Zelda sounds appealing, but your audience is more mature, consider Resident Evil: Code Veronica, a Sega Dreamcast game from Capcom. Resident Evil defined the survival horror genre, setting players against zombies, mutants, and other unspeakable horrors. Code Veronica sends Claire Redfield to Europe to determine the whereabouts of her brother Chris, who was lost in the war against the amoral biotech corporation, Umbrella. The first Resident Evil on the Sega Dreamcast, this title offers lifelike graphics and gameplay.
Another popular series makes its return in Final Fantasy IX, a Squaresoft game for the Sony PlayStation. Final Fantasy is the quintessential role-playing game series. RPGs feature story-driven gameplay, menu-driven combat, character building, and long hours. In FFIX, which is more lighthearted than its predecessors, the thief Zidane and his willing captive, Princess Garnet, set out to discover who is manipulating the peaceful land of Alexandria into preparing for war. Beautiful music and full-motion videos pull players into this four-disc epic quest.
Maybe zombies and dragons are too fantastical for gifts. Many games have the same fun factor in a real world setting. The PlayStation game Syphon Filter 2, from 989 Studios, sends Gabriel Logan and Lian Xing to find a cure for the bio-engineered Syphon Filter virus. The realistic gameplay (big guns, head shots, etc.) gives this game a rating for Mature audiences only.
As good as Syphon Filter 2 is, no spy game can hold a candle to Perfect Dark, Nintendo's first-person perspective shooter for the Nintendo 64. An unofficial sequel to the popular James Bond shooting game Goldeneye, Perfect Dark stars Joanna Dark, who uncovers a dangerous alien conspiracy. Each mission has a set of goals; players will need to master many weapons and accessories to get past the enemies that keep Joanna from her tasks.
Four-player competitive and cooperative modes can be engaged, with enemy robots, or "simulants," added into the mix. Rules such as Capture the Flag, Hacker Central, and Free For All ensure almost endless replay value.
If the gamer close to your heart enjoys games of a competitive nature, but Perfect Dark sounds a bit too fatal, these two sports games for the Sega Dreamcast might fit the bill. NFL 2K1 features four-player games and Internet play, using the Dreamcast's built-in modem. The included 50 free hours of Sega.net, an Internet service provider, opens a world of opponents.
Virtua Tennis is a simpler game, but no less addictive. Up to four players can compete in singles or doubles. Or, solo players can enter a world tour, with computer opponents and teammates and many unique mini-games that test different tennis skills, earning money to purchase new courts, players, and uniforms.
If mini-games are your thing, then Mario Party 2 for Nintendo 64 is nothing but. This board game, suitable for all ages, brings Nintendo icons Mario, Luigi, and others together to win coins and gain stars. Victory is earned in contests that try players' agility, timing, and luck.
Another Nintendo game that all ages can enjoy is Banjo-Tooie, the sequel to Banjo-Kazooie. Banjo the bear and Kazooie, the bird who lives in his backpack, are out to stop the wicked witch Gruntilda from sucking all life from the world. Players can search eight worlds, from factories to amusement parks, for musical notes, jiggy birds, and other items. The range of moves gamers must learn is paralleled only by how much fun they'll have with this wry pair of heroes.
Speaking of wry, few games exhibit the sense of humor Spider-Man does. The comic book wall crawler leaps into one of the finest superhero video games ever that pits him against the Lizard, Doctor Octopus, Venom, and a host of other nemeses. The game perfectly captures the feel of the comic book, from the web-slinging action to Peter Parker's witty retorts. A "kid mode" simplifies the controls so anyone can play. Published by Activision, this game is available for Nintendo 64 and PlayStation.
The games listed so far have been for the Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation, and Nintendo 64. Recently, a new system arrived on the scene: the PlayStation 2.
The PS2, which plays PlayStation games, PlayStation 2 games, and DVD movies, is a rare find this holiday season. If you're one of the lucky few who will be putting or getting one under the Christmas tree, you'll want some games to go with it.
Two games from Namco are sure to please. Ridge Racer V is a racing game that can be enjoyed by veterans and newcomers alike, while Tekken Tag Tournament is a fighter with much depth and many hidden secrets.
SSX, from Electronic Arts, is a snowboarding game that demonstrates the graphical power of Sony's new machine.
Whether you're shopping for a kid or an adult with a Nintendo or Sony who likes fantasy or reality, the Christmas 2000 season offers a wide selection of games for all systems and tastes, with the above games being some of the best.
This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 04-Dec-00