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2013 preview: 3DS and PS Vita

A look at the handheld games being thrust into your willing hands this year...

Every year we're promised that smartphones will kill off handheld gaming, and every year said handhelds let out a hearty chuckle and keep doing their thing. It seems 2013 will be no different.

The 3DS has a healthy selection of AAA titles due for release this year, and the fact that Nintendo's handheld is finally selling in large numbers in Japan can only mean there's more on the way.

Meanwhile, lacklustre sales and a recently barren software list has backed Sony's PlayStation Vita into a corner, but a cornered animal is a dangerous animal and this could be the year that Sony finally steps forward with a dynamite line-up for the powerful handheld. We hope.


DIMENSIONALLY CHALLENGED

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Luigi's Mansion 2

Nintendo's 3DS plans for the first half of 2013 include a couple of strong first-party titles. The long-awaited Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon has been in development for some time now and is set to finally arrive in the UK some time in March. It's looked significantly better each time we've seen it and it's clear Nintendo is hoping for big things.

A somewhat more niche release is Fire Emblem: Awakening, the latest in Nintendo and Intelligent Systems' long-running tactical RPG series. Nintendo will be hoping its decision to include a Fire Emblem game as one of the 20 free 3DS Ambassador titles back in 2011 will have created some new fans, but nevertheless the promise of regular paid DLC maps and storylines should keep the die-hards happy.

Finally, after selling over 2 million copies in two months in Japan (and that's not even counting eShop downloads), the massive Animal Crossing: New Leaf is due to release in the west some time in the first half of 2013. Promising the first proper revamp of the game since the GameCube release, this could be the game to finally cement 3DS as a must-have handheld.


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Animal Crossing

THE POKÉ'S ON YOU

Of course, Nintendo also has a sure-fire hit planned for the end of the year, with October's worldwide release of Pokémon X and Y, the first sixth-generation Pokémon games. If ever there was any doubt that the 3DS would sell in silly numbers next Christmas, the reveal of X and Y last week blew those doubts into little Charmander-shaped pieces.

Chances are Nintendo will also localise Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates To Infinity, the fourth entry in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series and the first to appear on 3DS. These surprisingly deep roguelike games have a cult following and with the game already confirmed for a March release in the US, a Euro localisation seems inevitable.


HOUSE OF THE RISING FUN

With its massive popularity in Japan it's no surprise that many of the third-party 3DS offerings come from Japanese developers. The massive Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate hits the 3DS in the US and Europe this March courtesy of Capcom, and offers the ability to not only transfer your save file to the Wii U version released the same day, but also local co-op in which one person plays on the Wii U and another plays on 3DS.

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Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow - Mirror Of Fate

Meanwhile, Konami is set to release the elaborately-titled Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow - Mirror Of Fate at the start of March, promising the same Metroidvania exploration that made the GBA and DS Castlevanias so adored, but controversially using a polygonal graphics engine instead of a sprite-based one.

As for what else is on the way, it really comes down to localisation. There are a bunch of potentially cracking games that are currently Japan-only - Professor Layton Vs Ace Attorney and Square Enix's Bravely Default: Flying Fairy to name but two - meaning we're all eagerly awaiting nods for English releases.

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Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

A VITA-L YEAR

That healthy selection of 3DS games should keep Nintendo fans happy, but it's a slightly different situation over at Sony. While it's not quite as bad as the doomsday-prophesying forum types would have you believe, it's probably not unfair to suggest that 2013 will be a make-or-break year for a handheld that is bursting with power and potential, but thus far rarely gets the opportunity to flex its muscles.

Sony will be doing its bit for PS Vita with a number of big-name releases including Sly Cooper: Thieves Of Time, the first new adventure for burglar raccoon Sly Cooper in eight years. As a Cross-Buy game, anyone who buys the PS3 version instantly gets a digital copy of the Vita version for free.

For those who prefer explosions to stealth, Killzone: Mercenary is also scheduled for release on Vita this year. As a mercenary (funny that), you'll be free to take on missions fighting for both the ISA and the Helghast.

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Sly Cooper: Thieves Of Time

AND THERE'S MORE

Persona 4: Golden hits UK Vitas in February, offering oodles of hours of rural RPG goodness. It was released in the US last November and received insane levels of critical praise, so Shin Megami Tensei fans will want to get this without a doubt.

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Dead Or Alive 5 Plus

Tecmo Koei is also supporting the Vita with two enhanced versions of PS3 titles. Dead Or Alive 5 Plus should give fans of the jiggly fighter an opportunity to get funny looks from passengers on public transport, while Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus will... well, it'll probably have the same effect, really.

That said, all eyes will be on Sony at this year's E3 to see if - among all the PS4 announcements - it plans to give the Vita's software library the kick up the backside it really needs to get the handheld selling again, particularly in Japan.

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