The latest games from Nintendo prepare to rock the holidays.

Game on.
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That's right -- it's that time of year again to start planning what you'll purchase for your loved ones during the holiday season. And for the Wii or Nintendo DS player on your list, Nintendo has some new game options that should keep them occupied ... at least until New Year's Eve, anyway. I checked out some of the latest from Nintendo earlier this week on their traveling trailer. Here's what I thought.

At the top of your list should be Wii Music, which uses the Wii Remote, the Wii Nunchuk and Wii Balance Board and motions like strumming and drumming to create music. Up to four people can play in your band on instruments such as the banjo, guitar, sitar, jazz drums, conga, snare drums, piano, vibraphone, marimba -- there's even a dog you can use to bark the music if you so choose. It's more forgiving than its cousin, Rock Band, because you can improvise and jam out without being penalized for not following the tune exactly. You can also create music videos, send your improvised recordings to other friends with Wii Music and use solo play to layer melody, harmony, percussion and more until you've played an entire song all by yourself. There's even an orchestra option where you can conduct a group of Miis. Personally, I'm not musically talented enough to take advantage of all the options Wii Music offers, but musicians with Wii skills will be all over this game. Wii Music will be relased on October 20.

I don't own a Wii, but if I did, a very dangerous game for me to purchase would be Animal Crossing: City Folk. You create a character to hang out in your virtual community; up to four people from your household can live and work together to build your town. Not only can you do things like fish, catch bugs, visit neighbors and go shopping, but Animal Crossing also includes fun seasonal activities that occur in real time -- such as trick-or-treating, hunting for eggs, building a snowman and more. You can exchange letters and gifts with your neighbors, collect items, dig up buried treasure and much more. This is the kind of game I could spend hours upon hours playing. Animal Crossing: City Folk will be released November 16 (take note, Mom!).

I also got the opportunity to sample a Nintendo DS game that's been out since September 8: Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir. It's a puzzle game where you have to collect clues to find the rightful heir of a fortune via a range of challenges. You might have to search a messy room to find everything on a list of objects or slide tiles around until they form the correct picture. This game is the only Mystery Case Files game to include multi-player options, where players can search for clues together or compete. With twelve potential heirs to investigate, thirty scenes and 1,000 hidden objects to find, this should keep you occupied for a while -- maybe during the downtime at the airport while you're waiting on a delayed flight.

And look for Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia on November 10. I didn't get a chance to try this one out, but it's an action-adventure game wherein your goal is to become a Top Ranger. Fans of the Pokémon series will be glad to note that Pokémon from Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl are featured in this game, too.

On your marks... get set... shop! -- Amber Taufen

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