Monday, December 29, 2008

VOID's 2008 video game round-up

As you may have noted from previous posts, I am a gamer; which is to say one who plays games. I know some game players now shun the term due to the mainstream media's making it synonymous with “psychopathic murderer”, but I still like it.

This has been a great year for games, last year was good, but I daresay that this year beats it hand down. Game Season alone had about a year's worth of great games to play in it. For those of you still doing your Pixmas shopping, I would like to go over, in no particular order, my top ten games, some honorable mentions, and a few dishonorable mentions as well.

Remember, my top ten is not ranked.

10.Grand Theft Auto IV.

It was a long wait between San Andreas and GTAIV, but it was worth it. I probably had hours of fun just playing with the Euphoria engine, and pushing people down staircases, not to mention just crashing my car into things. I can't wait for the DLC.

9. Rock Band 2

This is how a sequel should be done. They addressed almost every complaint I had about the first Rock Band, let me port over almost all of the songs and all of my DLC, and didn't even make me buy another plastic drumset. I plan for Void Munashii's “Mallville Survivors” to be rocking for some time to come.

8. Shin Megami Tensei Persona 3 FES

I've been in love with the SMT games since I picked up Nocturne used years ago, and can easily say that P3 FES is probably the best JRPG I have ever played. Good story, fun turn-based combat, and even the day-to-day school stuff is fun. Now if they would just make SMT games for the 360.

7. Fallout 3

I've loved Fallout for a good decade now, and viewed this game with fear and delight. I loved Morrowind and Oblivion, but could they do Fallout justice? For the most part, yes. I miss a lot of the funny random encounters (The Tardis for example), but the gameplay more than makes up for it. VATS is awesome, and the amount of gore and dismemberment are almost enough for me. I cannot wait to see what people produce for it with G.E.C.K

6. The World Ends With You

The only handheld game on my list, TWEWY is probably the most original thing to come out of Square Enix in years. Interesting graphics, characters, music, and unique gameplay combine to make this one of the best RPGs on the DS. How many other games out there make the popularity of your outfit a factor in gameplay?

5. Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain Slicked Precipice of Darkness Episode 1

Aside from having the longest title on my list, PAA is also the only downloadable game on the list. Having been a reader of Penny Arcade for roughly a decade now this is another game that I had high hopes but reserved expectations for. The only real complaint I have about it was the price, but then the point card I used for it was bought on sale, so it wasn't really that high. The final boss was both clever and actually fun to battle. I need to buy episode 2 once I get through by backlog of games leftover from Game Season

4. Burnout Paradise

I do not like racing games, but I do love crashes, and this game excels in that. While DJ Atomika and the inability to re-start a race once you have lost it are almost enough to keep this out of the top ten, the superb online play and level of DLC support the game has received are enough to salvage it.

3. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

This game is total fanboy-bait. What could be better than Mario and Sonic finally getting to beat the ever-loving crap out of each other? Am improved (which is not to say it could not be improved more) story mode and expanded character set make this game a must-own for any Nintendo fanboy. It would be nice to see more characters released as DLC or something though; I want to kick the crap out of Tom Nook.

2. No More Heroes

Over the top energy sword swinging violence combines with a somewhat interesting story, and a very unique style to make this one of the most unique games this year. The free roaming portions could have been better, but when you cut people's heads off, money and blood spray out. Do you really need more than that?

1. Fable 2

I was one of the people who did not have any real issues with the original Fable, so I guess it stands to reason that I like this game, even if the collector's edition was totally gimped. This game has beautiful graphics, the ability to earn money by not playing, but slightly wonky controls at time. It's a nice mature action RPG that never takes itself too seriously.

Honorable Mentions:

These are games that fell just short of making the top ten. They are games that I loved, but were just missing that certain something that would have catapulted them to greatness. Alternately, they are games that I know I will love, but will not get a chance to actually play before the end of the year.

Animal Crossing City Folk

The original Animal Crossing is a large part of why I wanted Gamecube, and “Wild World” has certainly gotten a lot of play from Osaka and myself. City Folk is more of the same, which is both good and what keeps it out of the top ten. Voice chat (which Wii should have had from the start), and the city area are not enough to excuse the dated graphics and lack of new content. Still as much fun as the original, but nothing much new here.

Persona 4

I won't repeat my opinion of SMT games here, you can read that above. What I will say is that I have heard from many sources that this is even better than P3, but I want to finish P3 FES before I start it. I'm sure it would have knocked something out of the top ten had I been able to play it, but at least it gives me a reason to not retire my PS2 just yet. Can we please have P5 on 360 though, please?

Saints Row 2

The game that wants to be more GTA than GTA is back, and is more violent than ever. Where in GTA IV you can find Niko somewhat sympathetic, your first mission in SR2 is to kill your doctor for no really good reason. You play scum, plain and simple, but that's part of the fun, right?

There is tons to do in this game, and the character creation system puts most other games to shame, but there's just not enough room on the list for two GTA style games.

House of the Dead 2 and 3 Return

This is the third time I've purchased HotD2, and the third time for part 3, but they're just as fun as ever. There's nothing new here, but it's still all good.

Wii Fit

This was this year's Tickle Me Elmo, and I was lucky enough to get one. It looks like quite a bit of fun, Osaka and my nephew have both enjoyed it quite a bit. Unfortunately for me I am too much of a fat ass to get fit, it simply resets itself when I try to play. Still, it looks like fun.

Dishonorable Mentions

These are the games I really wanted to love, but they just seemed to go out of their way to make me angry with them. It's like they want me to hit them....

Mercenaries 2

I loved the original Mercenaries; stealing vehicles, blowing up building, and Mercs 2 promised to be more of the same, and at first I was really impressed. Then I found out to hijack any vehicle required me to do a quicktime event. I HATE quicktime events, and have ever since I first encountered them in “Die Hard Arcade”, so having to do one every time I wanted to hijack a tank, helicopter, etc sucked a lot of the fun out of this game, and what fun it did not suck out was removed by the eternally spawning enemies in some areas. This game could have been in my top ten, and if they put in an option to remove the quicktime events in a future patch, it may redeem itself yet, but for now it gets a dishonorable mention.

Lost Odyssey

If you saw the ads for this game you know how beautiful it looked, and indeed when you start playing there's that same beauty, and it lasts for all of about 30 minutes, and then things go bad. You start out as this badass who takes out whole groups of enemy soldiers in a single swing, and indeed even takes out a flame shooting tank with giant swords on it all on his own, but once the sky opens up and rains lava down on the battle he wakes up incapable of taking out a large hermit crab without massive injury, and that is with the help of two other people.

The rhythm based attack system (which is done much better in the Shadow Hearts and Penny Arcade Adventures series), shouldn't bother you too much though, as you will spend most of your time wandering around “towns” looking for items, solving puzzles (including stealth puzzles, argh!), and unlocking the secrets of your past. The unlocking the past could easily have saved this game for me, as the stories you unlock are pretty good stories, but they are not told through the glorious graphics of the opening cinematic, but through plain text. There are five DVDs of content in this game, but my past is all told through text, seriously?

So that's my best, near best, and most disappointing games of 2008. If you do not see the games you put on your own top ten, keep in mind that I am not a gaming journalist, and do not get review copies of games that allow me to play everything that comes out. Also, I do not have a PS3, so if you would like to donate one to me, I'll be glad to give “Resistance 2” a try.

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