Julius Caesar was warned to fear the Ides of March. Gamers — even those who wear togas and live in fear of sharp objects — look forward to them, cuz it means lots of end-of-the-first quarter releases in which to wallow. Hey, it beats slopping in the puddle left by those April showers.
The Godfather: The Game (Electronic Arts, PS2, Xbox): So now we know what a $15 million budget gets you: Grand Theft Auto Little Italy. Having the voices of Brando, Caan, and Duvall in the family fold jolts the production values and gives the proceedings a flair of Coppola authenticity, even if Francis Ford didn’t give the project his blessing. The only things it can’t help are the repetitive environments and the game’s weak auto sequences. Don Corleone’s daughter isn’t getting married today, but I’ve gotta ask all these movies-as-games producers a favor anyway: I can live with Scarface, but please, for the love of Michael, no Godfather 3: The Game. Capiche?
Metal Gear Solid 3 Subsistence (Konami, PS2): Gamers have been wondering which would happen first — Snake finally venturing online, or Snake becoming a card-carrying AARP member in Metal Gear Solid 4 on the PS3. We have our answer, and it’s a doozy. The snake-eater’s solid deathmatch debut — well, solid for Sony standards, anyway — is reason enough to pick up this repackaged product, not to mention all the bonus content and the fact that Konami went back and fixed the original game’s screwball camera angles. If you took a pass on MGS3 the first time around, this is reason to celebrate.
Sonic Riders (Sega, PS2) A hedgehog on a hoverboard does not a classic racer make. Especially when all your slick boarding moves are dependent on a resource — your “air meter” — that usually bottoms out within the first lap. And what’s with the meager six-pack of courses? Stack this with Shadow the Hedgehog, and I think Sonic and his pals just fouled out — time for Mr. Blue and Spiky to take a well-deserved vacation.
Age of Empires: Age of Kings (Majesco, DS): The teeny screen makes it a tad challenging to see whether it’s Richard the Lionhearted or Joan of Arc (sorry, Joan) leading your turn-based soldiers (or is it elephants?) into battle against the Saracen hordes, but that’s about the only criticism to lob at this otherwise brilliant revision of Ensemble’s classic. And with campaigns that last as long as the Hundred Years War, this is the game voted most likely to burn out your DS battery.
Me and My Katamari (Namco, PSP). If I’m throwing together an NBA team, I’m not building around LSU’s Big Baby; I’m taking the King of All Cosmos. Not only would his size make him a righteous shot-blocker, but he’d totally confound opponents with his nonsensical, self-centered banter. “Practice makes purple”? That one might even shut Dick Vitale up.
Plus, the King’s got some serious handheld game — or at least his princely son and his colorful cousins do. This port of Namco’s colorful and addictive arthouse franchise deftly answers the question of how you use the PSP analog nub to roll the world up into the biggest katamari this side of Bryant Gumbel’s ego — you don’t. You leave it to the D-pad and action buttons, a system which, while not quite as simple to manage as the console’s dual-joystick method, still gets the job done.
Aaron R. Conklin writes about games for the City Paper.