February is here, and love is in the air. While some of the sports games set for release in the shortest month of the year may be hard to warm up to, there are more than a few of them on the list below that stir mighty romantic feelings in our gaming hearts. Racing fans will be especially wooed, because four of the sports titles heading to retail this month will be of the engine-roaring, tire-spinning, exhaust-spewing variety. Additionally, we'll also see the debut of Mario and his Nintendo pals on the basketball courts, as well as the return of an on-again, off-again affair in the form of a much-delayed billiards title. February's biggest love letter, however, may just come from overseas in the form of a soccer game that's already been making waves internationally before even landing on American soil. So, lovebirds, take a few moments from hastily signing Valentine's cards you intend to send to random strangers to feel the gaming love that February has in store for you.
Week of 1/30/2005
Winning Eleven 8 (PS2, Xbox, PC)
The Winning Eleven franchise is one of the few soccer series that can make even American sports video game fans stand up and take notice. Though the game's been out for a while overseas, footy fans on this side of the pond have had to endure several grueling months of delay before finally receiving news of the game's release. To make matters worse, last year's announcement that the American version of WE 8 would not support online play via Xbox Live came as another blow to fans of the series here. Still, the same aspects that made the game such a hit with the international community--namely attractive graphics, rock-solid opponent artificial intelligence, and smooth gameplay--should ensure the game finds a spot in the back of the net here in the US as well.
Dirk Nowitzki Shootout (Mobile)
What do you say about a mobile game featuring the world's tallest German shooting guard? That's about it, we guess. However, we should also mention that we recently saw some really funny photos on the Internet of Nowitzki, who was both drunk off his keister and sitting in Steve Nash's lap. No, we're not making that up. They're hilarious pics!
Week of 2/06/2005
NBA Street V3 (GC, PS2, Xbox)
We loved the first NBA Street. NBA Street Vol. 2 did a lot of things right, but it sort of felt like a retread. With the third game in the series, the aptly titled NBA Street V3, the franchise makes its next big leap. Not only has the trick system been greatly improved through the implementation of the right analog stick, but also the game's roster has received a face-lift as well. Sure, you can expect to see guys like Nash, Nowitzki, McGrady, and Ming all playable from the get-go, but a trio of ballers (who happen to be part-time musicians) known as the Beastie Boys are also unlockable in the game across all three consoles. GameCube owners should feel special, however, as the GC version of Street V3 include three players not found on any other console: Nintendo mainstays Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach. You simply haven't lived until you've seen Luigi break Steve Francis' ankles and then stuff a double tomahawk.
Racing Gears Advance (GBA) Why do publishers feel obligated to put the word "Advance" in nearly every title for the GBA? It's one thing when the name is sort of clever, like in the excellent Advance Wars series, but "Racing Gears Advance"? That's not even a grammatically viable sentence unless you mean the racing gears found in the game have found a way to move forward...and that doesn't make sense at all. Maybe it's sort of a battle cry for engine components. You know!? "Racing Gears, Advance!!" It's sort of like the Thundercats rallying cry...if the Thundercats weren't actually human-cat hybrids but were, rather, human-car hybrids. Or better yet, what if they were car-cat hybrids?
Week of 2/13/2005
NASCAR SimRacing (PC)
A big week for racing games kicks off with a bang, as the hardcore PC racing sim community finally gets a new NASCAR game. With NASCAR SimRacing, EA (owner of all things stock car racing-related these days) looks to fill the big shoes of Papyrus' beloved NASCAR Racing series. The game will feature all the tracks from the 2005 Nextel Cup series, in addition to aggressive artificial intelligence opponents, online racing for up to 43 live players, and some of the most demanding driving physics found in gaming today. For the truly dedicated, SimRacing's sheer volume of telemetry data will keep budding NASCAR mechanics scratching their heads for days as they look to eke out extra tenths from their cars.
Room Zoom (GC)
Racing games on Nintendo's platform typically come in two flavors: the Mario Kart racing variety or the light-speed futuristic sleds found in the F-Zero series. Room Zoom takes a page from the classic Micro Machines series by featuring tiny little cars in regular-sized environments...because the only thing more thrilling than driving a highly tuned racecar is driving a highly tuned racecar through a soapy kitchen sink.
If it seems like the Top Gear racing series has been around forever, that's because it has. There's a good chance, in fact, that the Top Gear franchise has been around longer than many of you who are reading this article right now. While the franchise has experimented with a variety of types of racing, including rally, GT, and daredevil, the newest Top Gear game puts a premium on the latest racing flavor of the month: the street racing/import tuning scene. We like that the game will have a free-roaming, go anywhere-type vibe, and car customization is always a good thing. We just hope the latest Top Gear game manages to recapture that seat-of-your-pants spirit of the series' earlier incarnations in the process.
World Championship Pool 2004 (GC)
We keep saying it's coming out, and they keep delaying it. The rabid GameCube billiards community was outraged when the game didn't hit retail shelves in January, so there's no telling what another delay will do to their collective psyche. Trust us, though: Whether or not the game finally arrives in February, this is the last time you'll see this game in a Month in Sports Gaming feature.