Thursday, December 11, 2014

Video Game Gift Guide 2014

Here's my annual Video Game Gift Guide, reprinted from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Regardless of what you call them—gamers, joystick jockeys, armchair warriors—video game players are both the easiest and hardest people to shop for when it comes to the holiday season.

If they give you a list of titles they want for a particular gaming console, all you have to do is run to the store or hop online and whip out the credit card.

However, if you want to surprise the gamer in question, or if you are purchasing something for an unnamed recipient (at your company Christmas party, for example), you run the risk of buying something many devotees of electronic entertainment already own, such as the mega popular Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U or the unimaginatively titled but ubiquitous Destiny for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

So why not buy something a little different, a little special or at least slightly out of the ordinary?

Here’s a list of nine items that most gamers would be happy to spot under the Christmas tree. Yeah, you should probably go ahead and keep that gift receipt, but you probably won’t need it.  
ColecoVision Flashback

Flashback to Christmas of 1982. Thousands of excited children awoke that morning to a shiny new ColecoVision, a “next-gen” console packaged with a stunning port of the arcade favorite, Donkey Kong. Kids who were especially un-naughty received a few additional games, such as Cosmic Avenger, Lady Bug and/or Mouse Trap.

Now you can recreate that experience (at least to some degree) for your own children with the ColecoVision Flashback, a plug-and-play unit with 60 built-in games (61 if you purchase the Dollar General version). Thanks to licensing issues, Donkey Kong and certain other key titles are missing, and the controllers have shorter joysticks than the original ColecoVision, but this is still an easy, cost-effective way to introduce younger players to the simple thrills of retro gaming.

Atari and Intellivision Flashback consoles are also available.

Buy ColecoVision Flashback on AMAZON
Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation
It Books
By Blake J. Harris

During the mid-to-late 1980s, Nintendo was king of the video game industry. The legendary Nintendo Entertainment System dominated the Sega Master System and Atari 7800 in terms of both market share and cool factor. However, beginning in 1989 with the release of the Sega Genesis and in 1990 with the hiring of CEO Tom Kalinske, Sega became a major player, challenging and even surpassing the mighty Nintendo—it was a David and Goliath story for the ages.

In Console Wars, which is based on more than 200 interviews with former Sega and Nintendo employees, author Blake J. Harris captures this epic battle in dramatic detail, resulting in a narrative nonfiction work that will appeal to both gamers and business people.

Harris is currently co-directing a Console Wars documentary, which is being produced by Scott Rudin, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

Buy Console Wars on AMAZON.

Game Informer Subscription
Sunrise Publications

With so much free content available via the Internet, the age of the video game magazine in the U.S. is largely a thing of the past—such iconic publications as GamePro and Nintendo Power have gone the way of the rotary phone.

However, thanks in part to its connection to GameStop, Game Informer is still going strong, regaling readers each month with news, reviews, interviews and more, including reports on development companies and video game conventions. The articles are usually well-written and insightful, offering far more depth than most of what you will find online. Plus, a subscription, whether digital or print, offers several added perks, including 10% off used games.

If you are unsure if the person on your shopping list already has a subscription, simply ask a GameStop employee.

Buy Game Informer on AMAZON

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Arguably the greatest first-person shooter series of all time gets an upgrade with Halo: The Master Chief Collection for the Xbox One, a new release containing Halo: Combat Evolved – Anniversary, Halo 2 (a high-def anniversary edition with extended cutscenes), Halo 3 and Halo 4, each with enhanced visuals.

The bundle also includes a variety of extras, such as a Halo 2 making-of documentary and access to the live-action digital series, Halo: Nightfall. Gamers can even check out the multiplayer beta for Halo 5: Guardians, a game that won’t hit store shelves until the fall of 2015.

This is a must-own for everyone ranging from hardcore Halo fans to those who have wondered what all the fuss was about, but have never actually played any of the games.

Buy Halo: The Master Chief Collection on AMAZON.

The History of Sonic the Hedgehog
Udon Entertainment

Sega exited the hardware business long ago—the Dreamcast was discontinued in 2001—but the company and its speedy blue mascot live on in such games as Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode II and Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, and in The History of Sonic the Hedgehog, a beautifully illustrated coffee table book now available in a more compact softcover version.

All but the most strident of Mario loyalists will fail to be charmed by this highly polished tome, which covers the history, the games, the spinoffs, the creators and the friends and enemies of Sonic. The book is Sega-friendly, so there’s not much negativity here, but it is a fun, informative read.

Did you know that Sonic wears red shoes because of Christmas? We didn’t either until we perused The History of Sonic the Hedgehog.

Buy The History of Sonic the Hedgehog on AMAZON.

Little Big Planet 3 Plush Edition!

If there’s anything more fun than opening a video game on Christmas morning, it’s opening a video game that comes with a toy. The Plush Edition of Little Big Planet 3 for the PlayStation 4 is just such a gift, packaged with a six-inched stuffed Sackboy, the chief protagonist of the game.

While the tangible Sackboy sits in your lap (or occupies a space on your collectibles shelf), you guide the onscreen character as he runs, jumps and climbs through an array of craft-like worlds. Unlike most side-scrolling platformers, Little Big Planet 3 lets players unlock materials that can be used to decorate, design and share customized levels.

Sackboy is joined by three other playable characters: Oddsock, who runs fast and does wall-jumps; Swoop, who flies through the air and grabs items; and Toggle, who grows large to weigh things down and shrinks to traverse small openings.

Buy Little Big Planet 3 Plush Edition on AMAZON.

Monopoly: The Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition

Video games are all well and good, but it’s important to step away from the small screen from time to time in order to live a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle. Enter Monopoly: The Legend of Zelda Collector’sEdition, a board game that the whole family can enjoy.

Designed for up to six players, the “Zelda-fied” take on the classic property-purchasing contest employs Deku Sprouts instead of houses and Deku Trees instead of hotels. Empty Bottle cards replace Chance cards while Treasure Chest cards supplant Community Chest cards. Instead of guiding a Shoe, a Car or other traditional token around the board, gamers maneuver a Triforce, a Hylian Shield, a Bow, a Slingshot, a Hookshot or a Boomerang. Naturally, rupees replace standard Monopoly money.

If you want to journey through the land of Hyrule and beyond without turning on the television set, this is the way to go.

Buy Monopoly: The Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition on AMAZON

Nintendo 3DS XL - GameStop Exclusive NES Edition

Originally a playing card company, the Japanese juggernaut Nintendo turned 125 a couple of months ago. Next year, the Nintendo Entertainment System will celebrate its 30th anniversary. You can help the gamer in your life celebrate these milestones by giving him or her an NES-themed 3DS XL. With its handsome gray, black and red design, the handheld system pays tribute to the NES controller and console.

Other special editions of the 3DXL are available, including a Super Smash Bros. edition, and each are compatible with the entire 3DS library (along with most DS titles), including such franchise favorites as Donkey Kong Country Returns and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

Buy Nintendo 3DS XL - GameStop Exclusive NES Edition on AMAZON.

Xbox One Special Edition Armed Forces Wireless Controller

The conundrum: your friend or family member loves his Xbox One, but you have no idea what to get him as he has all the latest and greatest games and is seemingly set for the foreseeable future. The solution: pick up this attractive Armed Forces Wireless Controller, which stands out from the pack with its camouflage design. Next time the recipient of this cool gift engages in a little multi-player action, and various controllers get strewn about the coffee table or couch, there will be no confusion as to which one is his.

More importantly, the device, which is ideal for the first-person military shooter genre, has a number of upgrades over the standard Xbox One controller, including vibration motors in the triggers that increase the visceral sensation of the onscreen combat.

Buy Xbox One Special Edition Armed Forces Wireless Controller  on AMAZON.

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