Favorite Games of 2006

2006 was another transitional year in gaming as PlayStation 3 and Wii debuted a little over a week apart. The situation was actually quite similar to Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable in that everyone expected Sony’s powerful hardware and the PlayStation brand to steamroll over Nintendo’s more modest and unconventional hardware, but the reverse occurred. Where PS3 had trouble selling units, Wii was impossible to find.

It was quite a few months before I was able to buy a Wii, which involved a mad dash to a not-quite-nearby Walmart. Curiously, I went through a similar process in buying the Wii U/Mario Kart 8 bundle.

List items

  • The slow beginning doesn't do Twilight Princess any favors, while the more realistic visuals are drab compared to The Wind Waker's cell-shading, but Zelda's first outing on Wii is an excellent adventure. The deceitful Midna is the best of Link's side-kicks, too.

    This award goes to the Wii version, only because that's the version I played.

  • I will admit that I get goose bumps when the crowd is chanting for the Elite Beat Agents-turned-statues. Genuine goose bumps. And then the cracks start appearing in the rocks before the agents suddenly burst out before dancing to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” alongside almost every person the agents have helped along the way. And I am cheering... until I actually start playing the song, at which point I choke about halfway through.

    Elite Beat Agents is a strange game centered on a trio of agents tasked with coming to people in aid and giving them a boost through dancing to music. Apparently such a concept is more normal in Japan, where two games in this series were also released, but elsewhere, it’s definitely stranger, which may help explain why Elite Beat Agents undersold to Nintendo’s financial expectations.

    That’s a shame since Elite Beat Agents is a wonderful music/rhythm game that I would've loved to have seen more of. Instead, it’s a quirky one-off game, an experiment in a genre Nintendo has limited experience in.

  • If Fire Emblem separated itself from Advance Wars by focusing on the units doing the fighting, than Age of Empires: The Age of Kings for DS separates itself by instead expanding on the buildings. In Advance Wars, buildings are either conquered to gain additional funds or to build units, but The Age of Kings expands this by offering additional types of buildings that allow the creation of different units, buildings, and other perks.

    Of course, that’s not so dissimilar to other PC strategy games, and that’s where the Age of Empires influence comes in. Make no mistake, the Advance Wars feel is very much in play, and like Advance Wars, The Age of Kings can be very addictive. It’s that whole “just one more turn” trap.

    Unfortunately, The Age of Kings uses a isometric perspective, which means that the map can start looking very cluttered, and the more detailed sprites does not help this.

  • Fun Fact: A supposedly solid wall by the eastern base in the map Bridge Too Far can actually be passed through, offering access to a northern route around the main battlegrounds and backdoor access to the western base. Since going through a cement wall is obviously impossible, I have little doubt this is a bug, and it apparently wasn't common knowledge since I can’t recall a single other person ever doing this. Maybe that’s for the best since trolling opportunities were massive.

    And I took advantage. It’s not my most admirable time, but it was a lot of fun. Now, similar to my time with Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Bridge Too Far was apparently the only map I played it. At least, that’s the only map I remember playing. And as for the single-player campaign... who cares?

    Why is this game so high on my list again?

  • Considering the problems I have with Skyrim and Morrowind’s combat, I question how I made it through Oblivion without similar complaints. It helped that swinging a sword was (or felt, at least) less dependent on behind-the-scenes dice rolls, unlike with Morrowind. It also probably helped that I was less cautious than in Skyrim, following up a stealth attack by wildly slashing until either me or my enemy was dead.

    At the time, Oblivion was a masterful game, beautiful where its predecessors (and other open-world games, like Grand Theft Auto) weren't. It was a world that didn't feel hindered by technology, but rather flourished with it. The forests that surround the capital were gorgeous, as were the hellscape of the titular Oblivion realm.

    Unfortunately, it’s not a game that has aged well, but Oblivion is still stocked with great quests, especially those belonging to the thief guild and the Dark Brotherhood assassins. It’s not the game that people will go back to, that honor belonging to Skyrim, but Oblivion was still an incredible game that truly felt “next-gen.”

  • By 2015, Mega Man fans have grown accustom to disappointment, but in 2006, we were receiving our first bit of misfortune. I’m not talking about Mega Man Maverick Hunter X or Mega Man: Powered Up, but the fact that these games weren't followed by sequels.

    Maverick Hunter X is a wonderful remake that adds some cute additions, like short conversations before battle between X, our hero, and the eight bosses. It also includes an anime short that acts as a prelude to the game, but really, the best part is playing through Mega Man X with 3D models and environments, and then again as Vile, a reoccurring enemy in the series.

    (Truthfully, I never bought Powered Up. I always intended to, but have yet to.)

  • Normally I would throw an improve re-release into my “Other Games” list, but MGS3: Subsistence is too good to waste on one of those lists. First of all, we have Metal Gear Solid 3, an already amazing games made better with a new third-person camera. It also contains ports of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake for MSX, so you can fondly remember a time when “Solid” wasn't automatically attached to every new Metal Gear.

    Subsistence also came with Metal Gear Online, but that wasn't very good. Why they’re bringing that back for MGS5, I cannot fathom. Wouldn’t a cooperative mode be better?

  • I doubt there’s anyone in America who hasn't considered the benefits of being locked in a shopping mall with free rein to go wherever and do whatever. Dead Rising offers just such an experience, plus dozens upon dozens of slow-moving zombies.

    Really, Dead Rising should be given credit for Willamette Parkview Mall, which is the most realistic shopping mall seen in a video game. Okay, most malls don’t contain a mild roller coaster, grocery store (that cannot be accessed without going into the mall), AND an outdoor park/concert venue square in the middle, but Dead Rising nails the feel, at least until you start experiencing the strange story and insane non-zombie enemies.

    Regardless, the fun of Dead Rising is just causing chaos in a mall full of zombies using whatever can be found, be it shopping kart, stack of CDs, or a sword hidden atop an awning.

  • By the time Nintendo released New Super Mario Bros. 2 on Nintendo 3DS, people complained that we weren't getting the best from Mario. I’d argue we weren't getting the best with the very first New Super Mario Bros.

    That’s not to say that NSMB is bad. It’s a very enjoyable platformer that stands toe-to-toe with plenty of great platformers, but when you consider what came before – Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Mario World – NSMB just doesn't feel anywhere as amazing as those games. Of course, those three are among the best games ever, so it’s hardly the fairest comparison. (That argument doesn't stop people from comparing Super Mario Sunshine to Mario 64 and Mario Galaxy, though.)

  • Resistance stood out by offering a setting in which World War II never occurred as humanoid monsters began pouring from Soviet Russia and conquering almost the entirety of Europe. With the industry feeling World War II fatigue, it was an interesting concept. It also helped that Insomniac Games, the guys and gals behind Ratchet & Clank, was the developer.

    What we got wasn't bad, but Resistance had the feeling of a developer tackling the FPS genre for the first time. Little about the game was memorable, and in a post-launch scenario, would've likely been considered much more disappointing considering the pedigree behind it. Neither bad nor even mediocre, but far from great, Resistance provided some enjoyment before being rightfully displaced by future releases.