The two-week period from December 21 to January 4: In what is traditionally the graveyard shift of video game release schedules, there are nevertheless two games to take note of at this time as Van Halen enters the Guitar Hero canon, and the epic role-playing saga Final Fantasy revisits the Nintendo Wii in the form of Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers.
Guitar Hero: Van Halen (360, PS2, PS3, Wii)
Release: North America, December 22. Europe, April 2.
Following up on the success of two special Guitar Hero editions exclusively featuring tunes from Aerosmith and Metallica, Van Halen's four-decade career follows in this self-contained game. Previously released as part of a North American tie-in promotion with September's Guitar Hero 5, GH:VH is now available separately. Guitar Hero: Van Halen contains 25 Van Halen hits including stand-out track "Jump," as well as guest tracks from 19 other artists such as the Foo Fighters, Queen, and Tenacious D. As the official lineup is now made up of singer David Lee Roth, brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen, and Eddie's son Wolfgang on bass, the game omits previous band members Michael Anthony, Gary Cherone, and Sammy Hagar - presumably fans of the old-style 'Halen will be crossing their fingers for 'Guitar Hero: Chickenfoot' or 'Guitar Hero: Extreme.'
Price: $59.99 (360, PS3), $49.99 (Wii), $39.99 (PS2)
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers (Wii)
Release: North America, December 26. Europe, February 5. Japan, released November 12.
This latest release in the Crystal Chronicles sub-series to Final Fantasy's epic and neverending roleplaying story arc is an improvement on the first game in the series - at least Crystal Bearers' multiplayer mode doesn't require the use of four separate Nintendo handheld consoles, making do with an additional Wii Remote instead. Though it's not a multiplayer game in the traditional sense, it does have an overarching story and it's possible for a second player to use another Wii Remote in an assistive capacity. Japanese games magazine Famitsu gave The Crystal Bearers an overall score of 30/40 when it was released there in November, a slight improvement on January's 29/40 score for previous game Echoes Of Time.
Price: $49.99 / €49.99