The Last Guardian, Dead Rising 4 among December releases

As 2016 comes to a close, developers and publishers are now releasing their final slate of major titles in time for the holiday season. With two new Super Mario titles, another entry into the Dead Rising series and games from the acclaimed Telltale Games and Team ICO, gamers have much to look forward to as the year ends.

The popular custom course-maker Super Mario Maker for Wii U has finally received a version for the Nintendo 3DS. The game is largely similar to its console counterpart. New features exclusive to the portable gaming device include Medal Challenges, which allow players to take on challenges like collecting all coins or defeating all enemies in a level in order to win medals, and a co-op mode where players can upload incomplete courses for others to finish via local wireless connection.

Unfortunately, some features were lost in translation when it was ported over. The online mode is restricted to maps made on the console version and is extremely limited due in part to the lack of “Course ID” support for user-created content. Several power-ups and costumes were also removed from the 3DS version. Despite being slightly neutered for its portable release, 3DS owners can now finally be able to experience the most customizable Mario title to date. The game launches on Dec. 2.

Another release this season includes The Last Guardian, a game that has eluded fans and gaming journalists for nearly 10 years after constant delays and missed deadlines. The game will be the third from critically acclaimed Team Ico, the studio behind PlayStation 2 classics Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.

Similar to Team Ico’s previous titles, the centerpiece of The Last Guardian is not the gameplay or even the presentation, but rather the emotional core of the story. While Ico had a boy and a mysterious girl and Shadow of the Colossus had a man and his horse, this new game centers on a boy and a mysterious half-animal half-bird creature named Trico.

Like other Team Ico games, the gameplay is unique, mixing in elements of action-adventure and puzzle games. In the case of The Last Guardian, the gameplay involves manipulating Trico in a similar fashion to real animals, such as luring it with food or using it to evade enemies and climb normally hard-to-reach platforms. Whether or not the game lives up to its massive expectations remains to be seen. The game debuts in North America on Dec. 6.

Capcom’s zombie-themed series is back with Dead Rising 4. Exclusive to Microsoft, this game focuses on the continuing adventures of protagonist Frank West as he makes his way through zombie outbreaks. This time around, his adventure takes place during Christmas in the fictional setting of Willamette, Colorado. Unlike its predecessor, the game will not include co-op gameplay in the main story mode. In an effort to encourage exploration in the game’s open world map, the 72-hour time limit has also been removed from the game. Dead Rising 4 is slated to release Dec 6.

Nintendo’s iconic mascot is finally coming to mobile devices, with Super Mario Run. After having massive success with the surprisingly popular Pokemon Go app, it only seems logical that Mario would be next for the mobile game treatment. Rather than having an outside developer work on the property, like with Pokemon Go, the game was developed in-house by Nintendo through its Entertainment Planning & Development division.

The game is primarily a 2.5D side-scrolling platformer, along the lines of the New Super Mario Bros. series. The main difference between the games is that Mario is locked into auto-run and the player has to tap on the screen to make him jump to attack enemies and avoid stage hazards, similar to Ubisoft’s critically acclaimed Rayman Jungle Run and Rayman Fiesta Run apps. New to this game is a “Toad Rally” mode where players can race against ghosts of other players to achieve the best time, similar to the time trial mode in Mario Kart. The game is currently slated to be iOS exclusive, though there are plans for an eventual Android version in 2017.

Telltale Games is also making a return this month with its critically acclaimed adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. Similar to season two of the series, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier will make use of decisions that players have made over the course of the last two seasons. Clementine, the main character from the first two seasons, will once again be at the center of the story, now a young adult joined by a new character named Javier. Kirkman has claimed that season three will see the series move closer to the timeline of the main comic book. The game will also make use of the graphics engine used in Telltale’s recent Batman series. While the first episode will debut this month, a physical retail version will be available on Feb. 7, 2017. This version will feature the first episode, plus a code to download the rest of the episodes on their respective release dates.