Each colored Pikmin has different abilities (blue Pikmin are the only ones able to enter water, for example), and two new types are introduced: rock Pikmin, who look like rocks and can crash through environmental barriers, and the winged pink Pikmin, who can fly and carry items in the air. Off-TV play is also included, so you can play the game right on your Wii U Gamepad. (E10 )
"Pokemon X and Y"
The "Pokemon" series finally moves into the third dimension with "X" and "Y" (which differ in the Pokemon available in each game). Aside from 3D movement and character models, the games have loads of new features, 69 new Pokemon, character customization, smoother online play and an extra evolution stage for specific Pokemon, the mystery of which drives the plot. (E)
"Fire Emblem: Awakening"
The latest in the "Fire Emblem" series (which isn't played enough by gamers outside of Japan), "Awakening" has all you could want in a tactical RPG game. Strategy is the key to winning, meaning you have to think and contemplate your moves as you direct your units on the battlefield.
A new gameplay addition is the ability to change a unit's class; there are more than 40 base classes to choose from, not including the classes that can be upgraded to one of two promotions based on your choice. Other additions are the ability to pair units together -- which may lead to them getting married and having a child that can eventually join your army -- as well as StreetPass features and downloadable content.
Additionally, thanks to optional casual mode, "Awakening" is extremely accessible to newcomers of the franchise or the tactical RPG genre. Those who consider themselves pros, on the other hand, can play in classic mode, which features permadeath. Along with the mode, you'll have four difficulty levels (normal, hard, lunatic and the unlockable lunatic ) to choose from, ensuring that the game is as difficult as you'd like. (T)
"Animal Crossing: New Leaf"
The newest entry in the "Animal Crossing" franchise, "New Leaf" doesn't expand much on what Nintendo's odd life-simulation series has to offer. You are now the mayor of your town (meaning you'll have mayoral responsibilities), and the abilities to swim in the ocean and buy pants are introduced.
Apart from that, the gameplay is what fans are used to, with the game progressing in real time. The main reason to play is to collect various fossils, fish and insects. (E)
(PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Playstation Vita, PC; Xbox One and PS4 editions in February)
With its perfect gameplay and stunningly gorgeous hand-drawn graphics, "Rayman Legends" is the 2D platformer you're looking for this holiday season. It features more than 120 levels and local multiplayer co-op (two players on the Playstation Vita, up to five on the Wii U and four on other consoles) as well as online challenges that appear daily and weekly. (E10 )
"DmC: Devil May Cry"
(PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Set in an alternate reality, this is a reboot of the "Devil May Cry" series. Developed by Ninja Theory (best known for its underrated "Heavenly Sword" and "Enslaved: Oddysey to the West) as opposed to the original series' Capcom, it is my pick for game of the year.
The standard, addictive hack-and-slash gameplay is here with plenty of weapons to unlock, and the game is as hard as other franchise entries with its seven difficulty modes. "DmC" offers a highly engrossing, satirical plot that gets surprisingly philosophical, and it's a great pick for anyone looking for a fun action game. (M)
"Grand Theft Auto V"
(PS3, Xbox 360)
The fifth entry in Rockstar's long-running "Grand Theft Auto" series features some serious changes. You now control three main characters, which have interconnecting storylines and can be switched to at will, and you also have access to the biggest setting in a Rockstar title, with the game world spanning 49 square miles. Featuring the standard Rockstar-refined third-person shooting, "GTA V" also has new activities such as BASE-jumping and scuba diving and a robust online multiplayer mode with up to 16 players. (M)