Shippin' Out September 1-7: Spore, Mercs 2, Viva Pinata 2

Headliners join arcade FaceBreaker, NFL Head Coach, and downloadable titles Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball, Shred Nebula, and My Aquarium.

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As ambitious as it is an enigma to most audiences, Spore is easily one of the most anticipated games of 2008. Will Wright's first original post-Sims game, the evolution simulator first wowed rapt audiences at the 2005 Game Developers Conference. This June, gamers were given their first taste of the title with the Spore Creature Creator, a marketing tool/hype builder that has yielded more than 3.2 million user-created and uploaded life-forms to date. This week, Spore's journey coalesces with the release of the PC, Mac, and DS editions of the game. Only just the beginning of the Spore franchise, however, a Wii version of the game has been officially confirmed, and EA has hinted more console versions are under serious consideration.

A mercenary's life is never an easy one, and that goes doubly so for the Pandemic-developed Mercenaries 2: World in Flames. Announced well before EA acquired the BioWare-Pandemic superdeveloper in 2007, the controversy-rich Mercenaries 2 was initially penciled in as a PlayStation 3 exclusive for release during the loaded holiday 2007 shopping season. Those details didn't last long, however, as Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, and PC editions of the killer-for-hire shooter were soon added, and EA abruptly bumped the game first to Q1 2008 last September, and then again to August so as to ensure the "game is 100 percent polished." GameSpot's review will offer its take on whether Pandemic was able to make good with that extra time tomorrow.

Another highly publicized sequel, Rare's Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, joins Mercenaries 2 this week. As detailed in GameSpot's full review, the Xbox 360-exclusive family title successfully picks up where the last left off, offering more papier-mache critters and new ways to cultivate their vibrant gardens. Microsoft's console will also see a pair of Xbox Live Arcade titles this week: Blazing Lizard's Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball and Crunchtime Games' shoot-'em-up Shred Nebula. Both downloadable titles can be purchased for 800 Microsoft points ($10).

Sports gamers will be treated to both ends of the realism spectrum this week, courtesy once again of Electronic Arts. For sim gamers, EA will follow up its Madden NFL 09 with NFL Head Coach 09. Debuting as part of the Madden NFL collector's edition in August, the game sees a stand-alone release on the Xbox 360 and PS3 this week. Gamers pining for an update to the classic Punch-Out!! experience may be interested in FaceBreaker. An arcade-style boxing game, FaceBreaker will practice its brand of the sweet science on the Xbox 360 and PS3.

Nintendo's online storefront returns with its standard allotment of two Virtual Console and one original WiiWare title this week. Hudson's latest venture for Nintendo WiiWare reaches out to the console's broad audience with the underwater marina sim My Aquarium (500 Wii points, $5). Delving deeper into its own classic gaming catalog, Nintendo's Clu Clu Land (500 Wii points, $5) and Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (800 Wii points, $8) have been added to the Virtual Console this week.

This week's new releases are listed below (list taken from retailer information--actual dates may vary).

AUGUST 31, 2008
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames (X360, PS3, PS2)

SEPTEMBER 1, 2008
Clu Clu Land (Wii VC)
Combat Mission: Shock Force - Marines (PC)
Ford Racing: Off Road (Wii, PC)
Guitar Praise (PC)
My Aquarium (WiiWare)
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (Wii VC)

SEPTEMBER 2, 2008
Baseball Mogul 2009 (PC)
Defendin DePenguin (Wii, DS)
FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage (PC)
GTR Evolution (PC)
PictoImage (DS)
Rapala Fishing Frenzy (X360, PS3, Wii)
Warhammer: Mark of Chaos - Battle March (X360, PC)
Vampire Rain: Altered Species (PS3)
Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise (X360)
Wizard101 (PC)

SEPTEMBER 3, 2008
NFL Head Coach 09 (X360, PS3)
Pirates vs. Ninjas Dodgeball (XBLA)
Shred Nebula (XBLA)

SEPTEMBER 4, 2008
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames (PC)
My Dream Job: Babysitter (PC)

SEPTEMBER 5, 2008
FaceBreaker (X360, PS3)

SEPTEMBER 7, 2008
Spore (PC, Mac, DS)

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