By Adam Brown
May 15, 2008 - With the Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360 now fully entrenched in a battle to control our televisions, potential and longtime gamers alike have begun to wonder what these systems will have to offer this holiday season. Sony and Nintendo have already begun to show glimpses of the future and Microsoft joined suit during this year's Microsoft Gamer's Day. With one of the best holiday lineups in history last year, Microsoft has made it difficult to outdo themselves, and yet somehow they managed. Titles like Bioshock, Call of Duty 4, and of course Halo 3 were great titles, but they were clearly meant for a more hardcore audience. It was clear Microsoft was attempting to focus on a wider range of gamers than last holiday.
The first two titles we were able to get our hands on were games that could potentially get more casual players thinking about picking up an Xbox 360 this holiday season. Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise was the first of these titles, making a fairly low-key appearance. It has made some advancements, but it is still basically the same game many of us became enthralled with in its initial release. The biggest change with this title is the collectible cards that will be attached to the game. Think E-Reader cards like the ones for Animal Crossing but instead of using a costly, horrible looking, and single purposed peripheral, you will use the Xbox Live Vision Camera. There will be cards for a plethora of different items and piñatas that can be held up to the camera to produce the same item or piñata in the game.
Next up was perhaps the biggest surprise of the show, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts. It was surprising because it was a somewhat unexpected title at the show and also because of what we were shown from the game. While we were assured that this game would still have platforming objectives, it was the game's vehicles that got the most attention. Nuts and Bolts looks to try to revolutionize the action platforming genre by making great use of physics, vehicles, and customization. The game basically includes a virtual erector set that allows you to build a wide variety of fully customizable vehicles from parts and pieces you find while playing the game. The sheer number of completely different vehicles that could be created was impressive, as was the unique way each of them handled as a result of your choices. Since you'll also be able to use these vehicles to play online, Nuts and Bolts looks like it could win over quite a few gamers when it is released.
Once we had played both the casual games that were on the floor, we finally got to start playing the hardcore games fans have come to expect from the Xbox 360. Ninja Gaiden 2 was there in all its limb-dismembering glory. We were able to play through three levels of this sequel, and let me say: this game will definitely not disappoint fans. The game will have eight balanced weapons with which to stylishly claim enemies' appendages as your own. Not only will you be able to delight in your gruesome exploits, but you can also save the videos and share them with your friends over Xbox Live with Ninja Gaiden 2's Ninja Cinema feature. Expect to see fountains of blood full of heads, arms, and legs all over Xbox Live when we finally get to start making our own ninja films starring Ryu.