Best of 2008
A retrospective Best of 2008. Great year.
A retrospective Best of 2008. Great year.
It took me over a year to finish Persona 4 in it's entirety and by the time I saw the final credits roll it had already been three years since the game came out. The fact that this game amazed me just as much in 2011 as it would have in 2008 is a sign of how compelling it's fundamental design really is. Expanding upon concepts created in Persona 3, Persona 4 masterfully combines dating-sim story-telling with JRPG dungeon grinding in a way that makes both halves contribute to the other. It's an impressive concept that intrigues you to play all eighty hours of the game's main story. Despite the exhaustive journey, my first instinct after completing the game was to start up a New Game+ to see what else I had missed. A magnificent achievement in video games.
An easy pick at the time, Grand Theft Auto IV answered the question "Where will they go next?" after the release of San Andreas. GTA4's direction ended up being away from what San Andreas accomplished, but it provided an itch to a scratch that most GTA fans didn't know they had. The series was always praised for its storytelling delivery but there was spare analysis on the story itself. Grand Theft Auto IV presents a depressing Greek tragedy of sorts following the character Niko, his relationship with being a professional criminal and his attempts to redeem the evil he has seen and done. The conventional GTA antics are improved upon through realistic physics, improved car damage and hit-detection combat but the lasting impression of Grand Theft Auto IV is the landmark statement that the series was no longer about juvenile power fantasies. Whether or not the series will live-up to its promises will be decided in future sequels, but GTA4 set the foundation for that goal and the rest of the video game industry took notice.
A personal favorite of mine that has unfortunately been forgotten about since its release. Prince of Persia 2008 scaled back the complexity of its predecessors, rebooted the world, main character and art style in hopes of breathing new life into a series that was losing the general public's interest. I believe they effectively succeeded with this game, but I am likely the black sheep of the crowd since I also liked The Two Thrones quite a bit (which was a "meh" for most people). I really enjoyed getting to know your companion Elika and found her dialogues to be the most compelling aspect of the game. I thought the ending had a beautiful tragedy to it and sparked my interest for what the team would do next. Unfortunately the original appeal of the ending was later diminished in DLC and the team went on to make another old-style Prince of Persia game, ignoring many of the accomplishments made here. It's still a great game for anyone who has interest in getting introduced to the series.
If you want to talk about games that have aged well, Fallout 3 is not one of them. Even upon release this janky, glitch-bred, mess of a game had trouble functioning reliably enough to finish each quest successfully, but that didn't stop its appeal to Western RPG junkies like myself. A nuke-load worth of content with different perks and skills suggesting some minor variances on how to play the game, Fallout 3 simply had too much good content to ignore the game as a whole. The main questline feels a little lacking, but it's the side stories and personal anecdotes that made Fallout 3 memorable for me. Even if most of the craziest situations were results of glitches, I can't deny the fun I had with this game or the hours I've logged since its release.
Speaking of hours logged. I really can't deny Rock Band 2 a spot on this list simply because it changed how I played video games for almost a year. I got into the habit of playing drum track songs for 20-30 minutes every other day. I eventually exalted into the Expert difficulty, and that progression of skill bared a satisfaction that can only be matched by the original Guitar Hero. Rock Band 2 perfected the model, despite what Rock Band 3 advertising might suggest. They really didn't need to make any rhythm games after this one.
More fun. More ridiculousness. More activities. More stories. More dildos. More transvestites. More glitches. More Saints Row. With all of its faults still in-tact, Saints Row's undeniable charm came back in a big way with this second game. The original Saints Row had some quirks and odd moments that made you think "well this game is a little weird," but Saints Row 2 made it known: "This is Saints Row. It's weird, and it's going to keep getting weirder." Good ole fun.
In a lot of ways it seems like Fable 2 was loosely held together by toothpicks. There's so much going on in the game it feels like at any second the entire thing is going to come crashing down. Luckily that never actually happens. Since the game has so many interconnecting parts its easy to get lost in what you're supposed to be doing but when it works, it works very well. The adventure's progression is classic fairy tale fantasy and hasn't been nailed down quite so well before or since Fable 2's release.
I still haven't finished Valkyria Chronicles' 40 hour campaign so I don't feel good about putting it higher on the list, but the quality of the game is enough to get it a spot at all. Introducing an interesting twist on turn-based gameplay and clever class-based combat with personality influences, Valkyria Chronicles is simply one of those games you play and think "Why hasn't anyone done this before." Even now, the game's excellent design has not been mimicked by any other developers. Damn shame. Although I shouldn't complain since I haven't even finished the game yet.
Dead Space is as derivative as it is great. I think that statement sums up the game. It's successes have been scouted out by other riskier developers but it doesn't mean what's in here isn't good. There's barely anything wrong with Dead Space and it's more whether or not you have the stomach or nerves to see it to the end. A great start to a new series.
By no means a quality game, but one that has my heart... even if it's holding it hostage. I've beaten this game four times on every difficulty including the hardest Sith Master difficulty. Each time I hated the game more and more for being so excruciatingly difficult, but I felt compelled to see it to the end. I'm glad I did so. The higher difficulties unveiled a depth to the combat that would be ignored otherwise (since normal allows for "force electricity to win"). I wouldn't say people should play the game, but if you have, and liked it... we're cool.
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