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Weekly video game releases: 'Need for Speed World', 'Dragon Quest IX', 'StarCraft II'

Among upcoming video game releases: Need for Speed World is a free-to-play online racing game with subscription options, Dragon Quest IX enjoyed phenomenal success in Japan and now arrives in Europe, and StarCraft II is one of the most important releases of 2010 thanks to its genre-defining ancestry.

Trackmania (Wii), Trackmania Turbo (DS)
Release: North America, July 20. Europe, September 24.
Age rating: Everyone / 3+

The Trackmania games are slick and speedy, with a dedicated online community, and a built-in track editor allowing players to create, share, and race on circuits of their own design - quite often including wild corners, corkscrews, and loop-the-loops. Trackmania Wii brings the trackmania experience to the Wii, with online racing and track sharing; Trackmania Turbo is the series' second outing on DS, adding the online component.
Price: $39.99 (Wii), $29.99 (DS)

Need for Speed World (PC)
Release: Worldwide, July 20.
Age rating: Everyone 10+

Think of this as Electronic Arts' foray into massively multiplayer online games - but using a fast and furious car racer to do it: tons of licensed cars, 240 kilometers of road, and two cities brought back from Need for Speed Wanted and Need for Speed Carbon. Skills are levelled up as players get better, and the game is a free download and playable without payment up to Level 10. Purchasing the Starter Pack opens up the route to Level 50. Other perks include a week's headstart (from July 13) and an extra car. One wonders what the Burnout series will come up with in response.
Price: Free to play, $19.99 for the Starter Pack.
Download from: http://world.needforspeed.com

Arc Rise Fantasia (Wii)
Release: North America, July 20.
Age rating: Teen

This is the developer's first game for the Nintendo Wii, but based on their previous role-players for the Nintendo DS ( Luminous Arc, 7th Dragon) it's safe to say that Arc Rise Fantasia, though not perfect, will certainly have its charms. A young dragon-hunting mercenary is saved from death by a foreign girl who has mysterious powers of her own.
Price: $39.99

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (DS)
Release: Europe, July 23. North America, released July 11.
Age Rating: 12+ / Everybody10+

One of the most popular Nintendo DS games ever released in Japan, this role-playing adventure sold over 4 million copies in just six months following its initial release last July. Review scores back up the fan frenzy as Japanese magazine Famitsu gave it a rare full marks. It's a huge game in terms of sales, acclaim, and replay value due to the number of downloadable extras. There's also a dual purpose DS stand / loudspeaker in the shape of the cute blue series mascot Slime available from accessories company Hori.
Price: €39.99 / $34.99
Hori Slime Speaker Stand: $49.99

StarCraft II (PC)
Release: Worldwide, July 27
Age Rating: Teen / 16+

The follow-up to 1998's StarCraft, the real-time strategy par excellence, has been in development since 2003 and comes from Blizzard, which is behind World of Warcraft's success. StarCraft II builds on the success of the first in both single and multiplayer modes. Blizzard has learned a thing or two from the WoW experience: Russian, Mexican, Chilean and Argentinian gamers can purchase cut-price retail copies and then top up online play with a subscription service - or buy direct from Blizzard's Battle.net for infinite credits.
Price: $59.99 / €59.99
Collectors Edition: $99.99 / €89.99

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift (360 PS3)
Release: North America, July 27. Europe, October.
Age rating: Teen

Quickly establishing itself as an essential entry in any fighting game fan's library, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger took many by surprise with a style and flair that held up under scrutiny. Continuum Shift was bestowed with a good score from Famitsu's four reviewers (9/8/9/8) though Europeans will have to wait a little longer - Calamity Trigger didn't come out there until April of this year so it's a little soon for the sequel.
Price: $39.99
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Fightstick arcade style controller: $199.99

Ace Combat: Joint Assault (PSP)
Release: Europe, July 30. North America, August 31.
Age Rating: 12+ / Teen

This will be the 11th entry to the larger-than-life Ace Combat dogfighting series, first released as 1995's Air Combat on the PlayStation One. Since then it has been on PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, and even Apple's iOS. Joint Assault will be the second PSP title but diverges from the series formula in that it uses real world locations - London, Egypt, San Francisco and Tokyo among them. Hopefully, there will be just as many ridiculously oversized enemy planes to shoot down as ever before.
Price: $39.99 / €39.99