By CoolDrMoney 1 Comments
As of right now, Killzone 2, The Dishwasher, 'Splosion Man, Shadow Complex, and 1 Vs.100 stand as the only 2009 releases I've played this year, and they will soon be joined by Rhythm Heaven and Uncharted 2 come Christmas. I could put together a hasty Top 5 Games of 2009 list before the new decade arrives, but that'd be no good. I've missed out on some major releases this year, and without experiencing them, I feel that list would be incomplete and rendered useless. So I've opted to make this list instead!
The parallels between the Guitar Hero series and the Tony Hawk series are easy and obvious. The ridiculous Activision O2 line of extreme sports games in 02-03 has finally been echoed by the ridiculous Activision "Hero" line of rhythm games seen in 08-09. Activision clearly doesn't understand the concept of oversaturation. Yet DJ Hero sticks out like a sore thumb in the list of "Hero" titles. It doesn't rock, it cuts, scratches, and cross fades. The turntable controller has that new, unfamiliar magnetism that possesses you to get your hands on it and give it a whirl when the chance arrives, similar to the new toy sheen of the guitar controller in 05 and the drum kit in 07. As soon as I was ready to dismiss the genre and ride out the wave with Rock Band 2 DLC, FreeStyleGames came along with a well developed game that finally explores hip-hop/dance music with it's own gameplay hooks. Activision could have shelled out a quick and dirty spin off cash-in, and thankfully they contracted the job to a dedicated developer. Once the price drops low enough, I'm jumping on board.
I've never been as infatuated, or up to date, with the GTA series as millions of people seem to be. However, I don't let the overbearing critical and cultural popularity of the series get in the way of enjoying the games years after their release, once the hype machine wildfires extinguish. This year's well received handheld entry will certainly find it's way into my DS at some point in the 2010s, and I thoroughly look forward to exploring Liberty City once again. That is, after I catch up with my sealed copy of GTA IV from June 2008. Oh man, I suck.
Following up RE4, one of the most notable titles of the entire decade, is as tough an act to follow as ever. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" happens to really break down when there are four years, a console generation shift, and a genre revolution separating two franchise entries in the video game industry. Especially so when that genre revolution was sparked by your predecessor. Since RE4's release, Gears of War showed us how to stretch that over-the-shoulder shooting blueprint into a more action ready form, Condemned showed us to truly frighten the player, and Dead Space wrapped this all together into the survival horror darling of the late-00s. So with so much stacked against the tragically solid RE5, why did it rank so high? Well, it's still a very well received game that is sure to provide a lengthy adventure with no shortage of undead African thrills. Disgusting mutants, impressive visuals, and a batshit crazy narrative that ties a bow around the series are also enticing. Add in the potential for co-op fun, and I can remain optimistic about the RE5 experience.
I don't know jackshit about this game. Outside of some minor E3 coverage and that one time I played it for a minute while I waited for the guy at Best Buy to check the backroom for Super Mario Galaxy, all I know about Bowser's Inside Story is that it is yet another well received Mario RPG. I really need to catch up with the line of Mario RPGs. Whether it's starting off with the SNES original or Paper Mario for the N64, I desperately need to get on board. I'm missing out big time by never finishing Paper Mario or the original Mario & Luigi in years past, and working my way up to Bowser's Inside Story is certainly a gaming priority to keep in mind in 2010.
Well, it's rather obvious who won the great inFAMOUS v. [Prototype] war of open world action-adventure games with crazy superpower leads and grammatically dumb titles. While Prototype garnered mixed reception, Infamous helped the Year of the Playstation charge headfirst into the industry's annual summertime lull. Cole's arsenal of electric superpowers equip him with a surprisingly vast combat edge, and he also apparently controls very well, making large city navigation and mission undertakings full of satisfying promise. Given the backbone of a comic book storyline thriving with moral strife, Infamous sound likes an open world experience that packs some serious punch. Also, it's from the dudes that made Sly Cooper, perhaps my greatest older game experience of 2009.
Sometimes rocky reviews only enhance your interest in a video game, if only to see if your own criticisms create an experience that matches what the reviewer felt, or if the strong points are bold enough to keep your opinion afloat in a seas of 7s. While Gravity Crash was no critical slouch, it still stands as the lowest rated game on this list, and one of the most overlooked. That happens when you're a Thanksgiving week digital release. From my time spent with the demo and the quick look that introduced it to my radar, Gravity Crash is a gorgeous throwback experience, with laser sharp faux vector graphics complimenting an appealing space exploration shooter-adventure. That's right, more fake genres I made up on the spot. My sights will remain on Gravity Crash until I finally plunk down the virtual $10.
Rock Band Unplugged seems like a really smart game. The title is clever. Successfully returning to the series spiritual roots while avoiding legal issues with Sony is a stroke of genius. Being able to release it under a highly successful brand name as a result continues the cunning. Avoiding the mistake of porting the series to a handheld by developing a game built around a hamfisted peripheral add-on keeps them safely off the Activision short bus. The fact that they can mostly use songs they've already gained the licenses to from previous Rock Band entries while still creating an entirely separate and correspondingly fun experience for the player is brilliant. At least the demo seemed really fun.
Dirt 2 seems to have taken the "bigger, better, more bad[itude]" approach to following up an already good rally racer. The original Dirt forged a path into more Americanized territory for the historically British Colin McRae series, and garnered some minor criticism from traditional fans as a result. Well, two years later, rally racing's X Games presence has only grown, and Colin McRae is dead. The game is now full on American, with the arena hopping RV lifestyle embedded into the actual menus, which may be the most impressive menus in any video game. Splashes of neon throughout the presentation and a decidedly Warped soundtrack are always abound to remind you who the audience is. As for the actual game, it seems to be Dirt with all the necessary improvements, which is obviously great. Dirt did have some floaty handling that many weren't keen on, and that has been a point of focus for this sequel. Dirt also felt a bit plain and lifeless, or traditionally British if we're being PC, which Dirt 2 looks to have blown out the water, with exciting, Motorstorm-esque race venues complete with saturated colors and occasional exterior excitement. Like fireworks!
Similar to Mario and Luigi, the latest, and reportedly best, entry in the Ratchet & Clank series mostly serves as a dire reminder of how much I have to catch up on with the PS2's triple threat of platformer trilogies. I've already caught up with the first entry of each series, with the goal being to finish them up by the end of 2010. Then it's all about hitting up the Ratchet & Clank Future trilogy at a patient, calculated rate so I don't burnout on it. That is key! It should be noted that what I have seen from A Crack in Time looks like an absolute blast.
Despite having a really bad name, PixelJunk Shooter stands out as the most appealing PixelJunk entry of the bunch. Fairly similiar to fellow PSN release Gravity Crash, PixelJunk Shooter totally fits under that shooter-adventure label, only this one is all about crazy fluids that physically act "dynamically", a visual and technical feat that impresses right off the bat. From what I've seen, the puzzle possibilities involving these reactionary fluids and elements in the game are grand. The game itself is also so visually smooth, or dare I say...fluid. Oh!
The platforming genre is far from dead, as many loved to warn of in recent years. Sure, platformers don't overrun the industry like they did in the 90s, but the genre's standing as we head into 2010 is rather ideal. Old reliables like Nintendo and Sony first/second parties will always be counted on to provide major console titles featuring their beloved mascots, and the rise of digital downloads has generated a wave of forward thinking entries that elaborate upon the genres basics in hundreds of directions. Trine is one of the brightest stars in 2009's line of digital run n' jumpers. This sidescroller handles environmental puzzles and combat scenarios by giving the player a revolving door character with the ability to transform into an acrobatic thief, a stalwart knight, and a wizard with the ability to levitate objects and create handy blocks. Constantly having to change tracks as you slay skeleton demons, magically fidget with physics to balance a scale and open a door, and then grapple hook to that unreachable ledge to make your escape is what makes Trine so appealing.
I've always enjoyed Breakout and Arkanoid style games, and I'm thrilled finally see one get the "Geometry Wars treatment". I don't really care for twinstick shooters, but I love the recent wave's deliberately retro take on what the 80s thought 21st century games would be like. Shatter has now taken that view to a genre I actually enjoy, and the game looks hella fun. Shatter brings some new gameplay concepts to the table, like the ability to affect the trajectory of the ball with wind current control, blocks that now float along their gravitational pull, and even boss battles. Apparently to go along with the hectic, post-Millennium enhanced gameplay is one of the best video game soundtracks of 2009. Shatter may very well be the arcade experience of the year. In the year of the Playstation, even PSN was able to trounce XBLA.
The path of the ninja is a patient one. I should know, I have successfully clocked a day or two worth of playtime on the original Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox since April 2004, and half a decade later, I have yet to complete it. It's a vicious cycle of starting up a new save, progressing through the game, hitting a new brick wall, and then placing myself on injury reserve for half a year. It hasn't been time wasted though. On the contrary, Ninja Gaiden is simply the best action game I've ever played, and I'll gladly return to it year after year. However, with a refined version of the sequel now available on the PS3, it's time to get my ass in gear and finally forge a victorious quest against Doku.
The Super Mario series is undoubtedly my favorite series in video games. From Super Mario Bros. 3 to Super Mario Galaxy, there is always an abundance of fun to be had with every main entry. They always end up being one of my favorite games not only in the years of their release, but also for the platforms they're released for. Despite this consistency, New Super Mario Bros. for the DS was personally shrouded in skepticism before its release. The concern was that Nintendo could have rehashed their old material and simply banked on nostalgia for a free pass. The title of the game didn't exactly help. NSMB turned out to be genuinely new though, and the end result was a game that played differently but was just as enjoyable as the original series. It now ranks as both my favorite game of 2006 and my favorite DS game.
E3 2009 was a redemption year for Nintendo following back to back sleep-a-thons. In my opinion, they nailed it. They successfully kept their surprise announcements under wraps (Sony) and they kicked off the conference with none other than New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Not only is it a sequel to the DS classic, but it's a console release, which only elevates the standards. Carrying a shiny new feature checklist in tow, including frantic multiplayer play and crazy new power up suits, NSMBW overcomes it's supremely retarded title and stands as the 2009 I most urgently want to play in 2010 and beyond.