Whenever a new video game system launches, there are two things to consider. A) Is the system good? (They always are.) B) And are any spectacular games available immediately during launch month? (Sometimes, there are. Sometimes, there aren't.)
When Wii launched, that console s best game came bundled inside for free: Wii Sports, which alone convinced a multitude of women and seniors to enter the gaming market for the first time.
The original Xbox launched with Halo, sparking the Xbox 360's eventual dominance over the PlayStation 3. The PS 3 did not launch with a masterpiece title; that impacted its reputation and sales.
So now Nintendo is selling its new handheld 3DS - a mind-blowing fun machine that plays 3-D games without glasses. I still can't get over it.
But are the launch games any good?
Yes, although none is as worthy as Halo or Wii Sports. Most launch games are solid and safe - a new Ridge Racer, a new Sims, and on and on.
Top Ten New Games
Here are the Top 10 best-selling video games, according to GameStop.com. Games are listed by title, company, gaming system, and rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Most games are priced $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii; $40 for PSP; $30 for DS and PS 2.
1. Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy (Square Enix) for PSP; rated "T" (fantasy violence, mild language, partial nudity, suggestive themes)
2. Super Mario All-Stars: Limited Edition (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "E"
3. Homefront (THQ) for PS 3, Xbox 360; rated "M" (blood, strong language, violence)
4. The Clockwork Man: The Hidden World (Game House) for PC; rated "E" (alcohol reference, mild violence)
5. Crysis 2 (EA) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3, PC; rated "M" (blood, partial nudity, strong language, violence)
6. Gears of War 3 with Bonus (Microsoft) pre-order for September release for Xbox 360; rating pending
7. Mortal Kombat (WB Games) pre-order for April 19 release for PS 3; also available for Xbox 360; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence, partial nudity, strong language)
8. Pokemon White (Nintendo) for DS; rated "E"
9. NCAA Basketball 2010 (EA) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated "E"
10. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters (EA) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3, Wii; rated "E"
(Ratings: "E" for Everyone ; "T" for Teen; "M" for Mature 17+ )
They are primarily sequels and remakes, branded in name recognition, yet suffering to varying degrees from being overly familiar in the gaming world s collective conscious.
The results are good, however, due to one overriding factor: These games are in 3-D! That elevates each game to feel far more fun than they are in the flat 2-D world of the old DS or even the Sony PSP.
Look at LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. If you use the 3DS slider to briefly downgrade the game into flat 2-D, Clone Wars looks like any old LEGO game - a dull retread.
But when you play Clone Wars in 3-D, you see and travel through a phenomenal depth of field. As you run a Star Wars character across tilted sci-fi floors, the game comes alive more than any LEGO game before it, as if you could reach inside the 3DS s widescreen and touch the R2D2.
Of seven 3DS games I've played so far, the winners seem to be Madden Football and Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition.
Madden offers most of the best options you find in Madden games on Xbox 360 and PS 3 - but in 3-D. It s so fun, I might choose to play the 3DS version over a PS 3 version of Madden. That is high praise.
And because Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition is in 3-D, this is the first Street Fighter I recall having any depth in its background settings. But Street Fighter also has near-perfect playability, fast load times and, yes, shockingly cool 3-D effects.
The downside for Nintendo is I probably will never play my old DS for the rest of my life. The 3DS has made flat DS games in 2-D irrelevant, if you re lucky enough to afford the $250 3DS. Yep, I know, that s a big if.
(LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars by LucasArts retails for $40 for 3DS - Plays more fun as a 3-D game, elevating what would be just another LEGO adventure. Looks very good. Moderately challenging. Rated "E"10+ for cartoon violence, comic mischief. Three stars out of four.)
(Madden Football by EA retails for $40 for 3DS - Plays very fun, smooth and big, just like Madden should, but in 3-D. Looks great. Moderately challenging. Rated "E." Four stars.)
(Ridge Racer 3D by Namco retails for $40 for 3DS - Plays fun enough as a large, above-average racing title. Looks good. Easy. Rated "E" for mild suggestive themes. Three stars.)
(The Sims 3 by EA retails for $40 for 3DS - Plays only slightly fun, as it takes too long for the game to act out character choices on a minute-by-minute basis. Looks good. Easy. Rated "T" for crude humor, mild violence, sexual themes. One star.)
(Steel Diver by Nintendo retails for $40 for 3DS - Plays quite fun at first, as a submarine game where you sink ships in first-person periscope mode or omnipotent battleship mode, but it wears thin too fast. Looks good. Easy. Rated "E"10+ for mild violence. One and one-half stars.)
(Super Monkey Ball 3D by Sega retails for $40 for 3DS - Plays fun if you enjoy Monkey Ball and marble-balancing games, although the scope is limited to just that: rolling a marble across weird surfaces while avoiding obstacles. Looks good. Moderately challenging. Rated "E" for cartoon violence. Two stars.)
(Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition by Capcom retails for $40 for 3DS - Plays fun and comes with a full range of Capcom s historic fist fighters and feet foes. Looks good. Challenging. Rated "T" for mild language, mile suggestive themes, violence. Three and one-half stars.)
Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug-Elfman.html.