December 26, 2008
Best Action Adventure: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
While Grand Theft Auto IV was certainly a bigger and arguably better experience, my pick for best action/adventure title goes to Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia simply because I put much more time into it. It’s a much more challenging game than its predecessors on the DS, and its improved level design limits backtracking. It’s nice to see 2D platforming mechanics come back into style.
Honorable Mention: GTA IV
Best Driving Game: Burnout Paradise
Criterion reinvented the Burnout franchise with the latest installment. Moving Burnout to an open world with an event at every intersection (and no loading screens) was an ambitious endeavor that they pulled off nearly without a hitch. While the lack of a retry option made some events frustrating, the ability to drive around an entire island and instantly jump online with friends to complete hundreds of objectives or create your own races really extended the game’s lifespan. Criterion continues to support Burnout Paradise with free updates that include motorcycles and new objectives, and those willing to pay a small premium will soon be able to nab iconic cars like the Delorian from Back to the Future.
Best Fighting Game
: Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Mortal Kombat has been my favorite fighting game franchise since I was a kid. I realize that the games have gotten somewhat stale over the past few iterations, especially in comparison to recent offerings from Capcom with Street Fighter IV and Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, but I’ve always found guilty pleasure in playing through each new MK game. I was skeptical about MK vs. DC Universe because I have absolutely no interest in comics and saw the game (and its family-friendlier T rating) as a desperate cop-out. Now that it’s out, I like the return to classic 2D mechanics, but I have no interest in the half-hearted story or the DC characters. So with that, my nod for best fighting game of 2008 goes to Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the simple fact that it encourages social interaction with friends who are actually sitting on the couch next to you instead of with strangers only interested in griefing online.
Honorable Mention: Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix
Best Platformer: LittleBigPlanet
Ever since I picked up my first NES controller, platformers have been my favorite video game genre. Since the advent of 3D gaming, the platforming genre has been rather stagnant. The really successful platformers have remained largely 2 dimensional. 2008 saw a resurgence of the genre with unique titles like n+ and PixelJunk Eden. The newest installment of the Castlevania franchise, Order of Ecclesia, was easily Konami’s best effort on the DS so far. But Sony blew its competition away with LittleBigPlanet. It’s the platformer for kids who grew up wanting to be game designers. And while it will take a very dedicated individual to create levels of the highest quality, Sony seems ready to foster this kind of creativity by continually releasing downloadable level packs.
Honorable Mentions: n+
, Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
, PixelJunk Eden
Best Puzzle Game
: Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a thinking man’s puzzle game. I love block-droppers like Lumines, Dr. Mario, Tetris, etc., but the challenge in Professor Layton wasn’t in timing or racing against the clock. Figuring out the solutions to hundreds of brain teasers left me scratching my head in frustration until finally figuring out that the answer was so obvious the entire time. Combine the excellent puzzles with an engaging narrative and some cutscenes that were pretty impressive by DS standards, and you’ve got the makings of a great franchise.
Honorable Mention: Dr. Mario Online Rx
Best Rhythm/Music Game
: Rock Band 2
Rock Band 2 may not be the most original option for the best rhyhtm game of 2008, but it is the refinement of an already exceptional design. Guitar Hero: World Tour may have superior instruments, but it owes much of its success to simply copying ideas from Harmonix. An excellent assortment of fairly priced downloadable tracks ensures that anyone will be able to find something they like. Let’s just hope the inevitable annualization of the franchise doesn’t drive it into the ground.
Honorable Mention: Patapon
Best Role-Playing Game: Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger has long been on my list of influencial games that I should have played a long time ago. I’m a big fan of old-school Japanese RPGs, and I own the PlayStation version but never got around to playing it. Now that it’s out on the DS, I’m having a great time grinding levels and enjoying the (somewhat convoluted) story. With my hectic schedule these days, Chrono Trigger is the perfect game to play for 30 minutes before going to bed.
Honorable Mentions: The World Ends With You
, Fable II
, Fallout 3
Best Shooter: Gears of War 2
Anyone who knows me is aware that first or third person shooters are not exactly my cup of tea. Prey was the first FPS I played since Doom, and since then there have still only been a handful of titles I’ve tried out, let alone finished. I’m not particularly good at shooters, and I just don’t have the motivation to finish one once I become frustrated. But Gears of War 2 had me hooked the entire time because I was able to play the entire game cooperatively. The story is somewhat less laughable than the original, and the visuals are amazing (even though the entire game is mostly a couple different shades of gray). I may even hang around in the multiplayer for a while. That is, if the achievements are easy enough to get.
June 14, 2008
My review for Death Jr.: Root of Evil on the Wii went up on GameSpot yesterday. I had more fun with the game than I thought I would, but it’s still nothing amazing. Great personality, mediocre execution. I imagine it isn’t garnering much attention over there, since Kevin’s review for Metal Gear Solid 4 went up as well. He gave it a 10, which is a big deal if only for the fact that GameSpot very rarely hands that score out. Most recently, they gave a 10 to Grand Theft Auto IV, but it had been years before that the last 10 was given. I can’t really speak on the scores for GTAIV and MGS4, because I’ve only played a bit of the former and none of the latter. I should really get around to playing both games, though.