Month in Review: September 2005

Welcome to GameSpot's Month in Review, where we look back at the games that GameSpot has reviewed for the month and pick a handful to receive our Games of the Month awards.

Welcome to the GameSpot Complete Buyers' Guide. Our guide is in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format, and it's laid out so you can print it out and take it on the go. With this guide, you'll have access to our thoughts and ratings for every title that's appeared in the last month. Take the guide to your local game store and be more informed when it's time to buy.
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Now presenting GameSpot's Imports of the Month awards, where we sift through as many of the games from Europe, Japan, and other regions as we can and select those we think are worthy of the shipping fees. For the first-ever Imports of the Month selections, we cheat a little bit and pick some games from earlier than the month of September. So after reading the Games of the Month, be sure to continue reading to check out the best that importing has to offer.

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Welcome to GameSpot's Month in Review, where we look back at the games that GameSpot has reviewed for the month and pick a handful to receive our Games of the Month awards. Remember, only those games that GameSpot has reviewed within the month may actually qualify. If you're a GameSpot Complete member looking to catch up on the many game reviews that GameSpot has put together for the month of September, download the PDF Buyer's Guide listed above. Otherwise, read on for the Game of the Month awards for the month of September, 2005.

Ninja Gaiden Black (XBOX)

No Caption Provided"Remarkably enough, the best just got better with Ninja Gaiden Black, an updated version of last year's absolutely amazing Xbox action game. Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox didn't leave a lot of room for improvement, thanks to its astonishingly good presentation and fantastic action, which combined the depth and precision of a great fighting game with the settings and situations of a first-rate action adventure game. But this new installment seems bent on achieving nothing less than perfection by using last year's game as a starting point and fine-tuning its few issues, while also adding lots of new options and content, such as a lengthy series of stand-alone missions that emphasize the game's unbelievably intense, brutal, lighting-fast combat. The core game is still the same as before, but it's just as exciting today as it was last year." - Greg Kasavin

Far Cry Instincts (XBOX)

No Caption Provided"When Ubisoft announced last year that it was going to port its hit PC first-person shooter Far Cry to the Xbox, the news generated a lot of skepticism. After all, Far Cry wasn't just one of the best PC shooters of 2004; it was also a technological marvel that pushed PC graphics to the limits. How could it possibly work on the Xbox? Well, it turns out that for starters, developer Ubisoft Montreal threw Far Cry out the window and created a new game from the ground up, one designed to take full advantage of the Xbox's hardware. That's all well and good, but what everyone didn't expect was that Ubisoft Montreal would create a game that's even better than Far Cry, and considering how good Far Cry was, that's saying quite a lot." - Jason Ocampo

Massive Snowboarding (Mobile)

No Caption Provided"Massive Snowboarding is the greatest "extreme" sports title ever made for a mobile phone. Since the extreme genre is--even in the console and PC world--frequently the subject of scorn and ridicule, this is admittedly not the proudest of boasts. To say that Massive Snowboarding is one of Gameloft's finest achievements might therefore carry more weight. This twitch-based boarding game moves with such fast-paced fluidity, you'll swear you're playing Coolboarders again." - Avery Score

Burnout Revenge (XBOX, PS2)

No Caption Provided"It may have started out as just another post-Ridge Racer driving game with a unique focus on beautifully destructive car crashes, but over the years, the Burnout series has really carved out its own spot in the racing genre. Last year's Burnout 3: Takedown was when the series truly came into its own by achieving a near-perfect balance between high-speed racing and nefarious racing tactics designed to put the other racers out of commission. With a name like Burnout Revenge, you might expect the latest game in the series to be a little rougher, a little meaner. And you'd be right. While it isn't a total reinvention, Burnout Revenge makes significant alterations to the Burnout formula that essentially render every other game in the series obsolete." - Jeff Gerstmann

WordKing Poker (Mobile)

No Caption Provided"Wordking Poker is a brilliant combination of two of America's favorite parlor pastimes, and is--dare we say it?--better than either one. In Wordking, you use Scrabble tiles in several poker settings and bet on your hand at intervals. You can play the fairly standard games of hold 'em, seven-card stud, and five-card draw, all the while flexing your left-brain literacy skills. The game's extensive dictionary won't let down word lovers, who will find ample challenge in the game's higher-difficulty settings. A compelling game with lots of replayability, Wordking should supplant traditional poker on the national circuit. It also should be regarded as one of the best mobile games to date." - Avery Score

Burnout Legends (PSP)

No Caption Provided"Driving games happen to be the genre the PSP is wealthiest in, but that didn't stop EA and developer Criterion's Burnout Legends from coming in and smoking the competition. Burnout Legends is almost like something of a greatest hits collection, combining gameplay elements with cars and tracks from the first three console Burnout games to form a package that actually feels pretty original and unique on its own merits. Apart from that, though, Legends simply makes fantastic use of the PSP technology, providing a profoundly impressive audiovisual experience and fast, frantic racing, both of which easily rank with the best the platform has to offer." - Alex Navarro

Doom RPG (Mobile)

No Caption Provided"While it might not pick up any style points, there's something to be said for the simple nature of the name "Doom RPG." It lets you know exactly what you're getting into: a role-playing game based on the classic id Software first-person shooter, Doom. Converting an action game into a turn-based RPG sounds like a risky maneuver, but aside from a handful of quirks and the occasional performance issue, Doom RPG is an interesting and fun new twist on the Doom legacy." - Jeff Gerstmann

Dragonshard (PC)

No Caption Provided"It's a strange thought, but after a decade of real-time strategy, no one has bothered to make an actual D&D-based real-time strategy game. Oh, there have been countless real-time strategy games that clone D&D, but not an actual D&D game. That's now changed with Dragonshard, the latest game from Liquid Entertainment. And before you think that this is a standard, formulaic real-time strategy game, think again. Yes, it could have been easy to make a cookie-cutter RTS game featuring a good chunk of creatures from the latest edition of D&D's Monster Manual, but the folks at Liquid have done far better than that. By taking inspiration from D&D's role-playing roots, Liquid has made an RTS that's both interesting and new. More importantly, it's fun to play." - Jason Ocampo

Indigo Prophecy (XBOX, PS2)

No Caption Provided"The term "cinematic gameplay" gets tossed around an awful lot these days. And it's often tossed around by game makers who simply throw in a few letterboxed cutscenes and minimalist heads-up displays and then just call it a day. Developer Quantic Dream's Indigo Prophecy is a game that actually gives cinematic gameplay some context, as well as some real heartfelt meaning. More movie with an interactive progression than video game pretending to be a movie, Indigo Prophecy eschews practically any modern gameplay convention in favor of a significantly more subtle mechanical interface. You take part in every action in Indigo Prophecy--from the biggest fight sequence, to the most minor of day-to-day tasks--and you do it all with simple movements of the analog sticks on your controller, or with some quick button presses that are more akin to a rhythm game than a typical third-person adventure. But where Indigo Prophecy truly shines is in its story, which is a deep, captivating, and sometimes disturbing tale of one average man's journey to solve a murder that he himself committed."- Alex Navarro

Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! (DS)

No Caption ProvidedRelease: July 28 (Japan)
Outlook: Cloudy skies. Ouendan is not doing well enough in Japan to make this likely.
Equipment: Any DS

Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! is a rhythm action game that puts you in charge of a trio of male cheerleaders that, much like Batman, is never far from those in need. The trio remains in a state of catlike readiness until it hears the call of "Ouendan!", or "Let's cheer!", from someone in need of help. You'll find two main modes in the game, a single-player experience that offers easy and normal difficulties, as well as an unlockable cheerleader difficulty and a multiplayer mode for two to four players.

All told, Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! is a fantastic DS game that shows off just about every feature the hardware has to offer to good effect. The game offers a fun experience that has a respectable amount of depth for a rhythm action game. The single-player game is addictive fun that's made even more appealing by the challenge of opening up the higher difficulties. Better yet, the multiplayer mode is outstanding and offers an engaging experience that can last for as long or as short as you like. -Ricardo Torres

Earth Defense Force 2 (PS2)

No Caption ProvidedRelease: July 28 (Japan)
Outlook: No official word, but it would require little localization, so let's hope.
Equipment: Japanese PS2

Earth Defense Force 2 may not be an overly complex or detailed game, but for a $20 price tag, this is about as good as it can get. It's a sequel to the PS2 game released earlier this year (and not the Super Nintendo Entertainment System side-scrolling shooter of the same name) that also didn't make it outside of Japan.

In Earth Defense Force 2, your objective is to battle giant bugs of all kinds in the cities of London and Tokyo. The two playable characters have different abilities, which give a different spin to the bug-killing, whether it's from the driver's seat of one of the game's vehicles or from the lofty view from jet-packing over the game's open environments. Although there is an aspect of collection in the game that is important, the focus is, quite simply, destruction. And this is ultimately what makes this game so enjoyable; it's a carnage-fest as you unlock and use more than 140 weapons to bring the bugs to great justice. Since it requires a Japanese PS2 to play, this is worth picking up only if you have the system already. But if you do, it's about the best way to spend $20. -Carrie Gouskos

TOCA Race Driver 2 (PSP)

No Caption Provided Release: September 1 (Europe)
Outlook: North American release unlikely.
Equipment: Any PSP

A launch game for the PSP in Europe, TOCA Race Driver 2 is essentially a straight port of the PlayStation 2 game released in October. That's great news for fans of the series, provided you don't live in North America where SCEA refused the game concept approval on the grounds that it's too similar to the PS2 version. The game has recently appeared on one or two North American release schedules with a date of February '06, but at the time of writing we've been unable to confirm its authenticity.

TOCA Race Driver 2 is perhaps best known for its story-driven career mode, in which you assume the role of a rookie race driver attempting to become the number one professional in the world. As your career progresses, you'll get to meet an interesting cast of characters in great-looking first-person movies that are shown between races. You'll also get to compete in up to 33 championships spanning no fewer than 15 different styles of racing, such as super trucks, open-wheel grand prix, stock cars, rally cross, street racing, and classic car events. The PSP version of TOCA Race Driver 2 supports up to 21 vehicles in each race and boasts wireless multiplayer support for up to 12 drivers. -Justin Calvert

World Soccer Winning Eleven 9: Ubiquitous Evolution (PSP)

No Caption ProvidedRelease: September 14 (Japan)
Outlook: US version entitled World Soccer Winning Eleven 9 coming to US in Q1 2006.
Equipment: Any PSP

If you're a fan of Konami's Winning Eleven soccer series, you're probably already aware that the PlayStation 2 version of World Soccer Winning Eleven 9 was released in Japan in August. You might not have noticed the release, however, of a PSP version subtitled Ubiquitous Evolution in Japan last month. Although lacking the PS2 game's career mode, the PSP version plays the same game of soccer and benefits from the same improvements over the sublime Winning Eleven 8 as its console cousin.

Features to watch out for on the field include improved player movement and animations, new wingback and second striker positions, and more-realistic play from CPU opponents. Off the field you'll find match, league, and training options, as well as menus that let you edit player and team information, play against a friend wirelessly, or even exchange data with the PS2 game. The top-level menus are in English, so no problems there, and since the layout of the other menus is no different than in previous entries, fans should have no trouble figuring them out. If the idea of playing Winning Eleven 9 with something other than a PS2 controller in your hand isn't an instant turn-off, this one's definitely worth a look. -Justin Calvert

Princess Crown

No Caption ProvidedRelease: September 22 (Japan)
Outlook: The Saturn version of the game didn't make it over, so all we can do is hope.
Equipment: Any PSP

Princess Crown puts you in the role of Princess Gradriel, a young monarch who, as is always the case in a role-playing game, winds up getting sucked into a quest to save her kingdom from evil. The game features a unique side-scrolling game mechanic that has more in common with a standard hack-and-slash game than an RPG. However, the RPG elements have been folded in surprisingly well.

Based on what we played, Princess Crown manages to hold up nicely. The gameplay is rock solid, and the visuals have a nice retro look to them that still impresses. Best of all, the surprisingly lengthy quest and assorted playable characters add a considerable amount of replay value to the game, which isn't something you see a lot of on the PSP. -Ricardo Torres

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