Favorite Games of 2008

This list is unusual in that at least four of the games included are actually inferior to sequels. Some were even knocked down a few spaces. I realize that’s not a unusual idea as sequels should improve on their predecessors, but how often does that actually happen?

List items

  • Because of its genre, visual style, and console it was released on, Valkyria Chronicles just never stood a chance in finding a larger, mainstream audience. It’s a turn-based strategy with real-time elements that tells a story with anime characters. That has niche written all over it. Not to mention that it was released on PlayStation 3 during the early years when it just wasn't selling.

    But Valkyria Chronicles earned a loyal fanbase likely because it didn't pander to the mainstream. That’s not to say it’s a so-called “hardcore” game that the Call of Duty couldn't comprehend, but it targeted a specific, narrow audience. That’s probably the same audience that enjoys Atlus games, which Sega owns, and if they ever see fit to make a Valkyria Chronicles 4 (or bring over Valkyria Chronicles 3), they’d do well to release it under the Atlus label.

    Regardless of who releases sequels, the original Valkyria Chronicles is still a great game that tells an enjoyable story. Frankly, it’s one of my favorite games ever.

    Valkyria Chronicles never stood a chance in North America. A strategy/RPG that uniquely mixes turn-based and real-time gameplay? Tells a war story with a love story sub-plot, using anime characters? Released when PlayStation 3 was selling at its worst? Not a chance in the world, and unsurprisingly sales reflected that.

    Regardless, Valkyria Chronicles has earned a steller reputation, enough that when the game was re-released on Steam, it was at the top of the sales charts. The reasons are simple: that unique turn-based/real-time combat is unlike anything else available, and the watercolor

  • Like many, I assume, Fallout 3 was my first experience with this series, and yet because of the developers (Bethesda), it felt quite familiar to The Elder Scrolls games. Still, what Fallout has over Elder Scrolls is a better battle system. Unfortunately, swinging a sword in, say, Oblivion has never been that fun, but using V.A.T.S. to target a specific body part before firing bullets from a gun… it just feels more strategic, I suppose.

    Add in the same open-world gameplay with a better setting and some truly outstanding DLC, and you have a game that I’d happily sink hundreds of hours into. Hopefully Fallout 4 (rumored to be shown at E3 ’15) follows suit.

  • Being able to add additional songs to a music game via DLC is great, but there are a lot of songs and a good chance that favorites are not going to be added, especially if they’re from more obscure artists. Audiosurf does away with those concerns by allowing players to use almost every songs sitting on their computer. (There were issues with songs protected by DRM, and I can’t recall if that ever changed.)

    The game itself offers a few modes, but they all involve a ship (like a futuristic racer) traveling down a path and either collecting or ignoring some or all notes. As I said, it depends on the mode, but the path and notes are formed by the song chosen, so slower songs involve crawling up the path while faster songs are a fast, downward bend, which I find the most fun. Your entertainment is really based around the songs as even my favorite mode can be a drawl with the wrong tune.

  • There was a time when Rock Band 2 would top this list, but then Rock Band 3 arrived and outclassed its predecessor. Still, RB2 is no slouch, offering improvements that make for a much better experience. Simply being able to go through World Tour mode solo was worth the price, adding both structure and a degree of randomness lacking in just jumping into a long list of songs.

    Better yet, Rock Band 2 proved that Harmonix was serious about making Rock Band a platform by allowing players to play almost the entirety of RB1’s set list AND previously-purchased DLC. Most music games (thankfully) do that now, but at the time there was some question if Harmonix would go through the effort.

  • Brawl sits at an odd place within the Smash releases. It lacks the hardcore devotion of Melee or the HD/portability of the fourth installment, and while the original Smash doesn't play as well as the sequels, it is the original. Brawl tried things that just didn't work. Tripping, apparently designed to counter competitive play, frustrated everyone, while online was botched from the start. A “story mode” was also added, but to accommodate every character, levels felt watered-down (as opposed to designing levels around one or two specific characters).

    But despite everything, Brawl is still an enjoyable game that feels appreciably different from what came before and after. It’s just that what came before and after is more fun.

  • No, not the console Civilization Revolution, but the version crafted for DS (and later released on iOS). It lacks the cartoon charms of its bigger brother, instead using ugly sprites that somehow cause the game to chug at times when jumping into the city info. It also fails at representing city growth in any meaningful manner. And to top it off, the “Civpedia” is absent.

    All that being said, it’s still a very faithful version of Civilization Revolution, offering that same level of addictive gameplay that people enjoy. I still say, it’s a pity that a sequel bypassed 3DS for iOS because I can imagine Civilization being built specifically for Nintendo’s handheld being pretty awesome.

  • As the first Ace Attorney developed specifically for DS (instead of being GBA ports), Apollo Justice was an obvious attempt to start over. The previous cast was tossed aside, the only exceptions being the Judge and previous hero Phoenix Wright, who looks almost unrecognizable.

    Unfortunately, the new people just didn’t match up to the old crew. Ema Skye just can’t compete against lovable loser Dick Gumshoe, while Klavier Gavin lacks the menace of previous prosecutors. (He makes for better help, as we see in Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies.) It’s still a very fun game with a neat story, but it’s one of the lesser titles in the series.

  • Not everyone likes Days of Ruin for adding a “mature” spin on Advance Wars. It wasn't THAT “mature,” and I still prefer this over the kids waging war thing in previous AW titles. Some even argue that Days of Ruin killed Advance Wars since we haven’t seen one since. That... is probably true. I mean, DoR didn't even come out in Japan. That’s not helping anyone.

    Frankly, Days of Ruin still has the same Advance Wars gameplay. It’s still a lot of fun.

  • I liked GTA4, at least enough to beat it. The sluggish car physics didn't bother me and the story was a non-issue (I seriously can’t remember almost everything that happens). At the time, this was the most impressive depiction of a major city in gaming, and I loved traveling down to Liberty City’s take on Times Square almost as much as I loved taking a copter and flying down to their Times Square.

    And then Grand Theft Auto V happened.

    As great as Liberty City looked, GTA4 was still blurry and gray long before Los Santos was recreated in HD. GTA5 just made that so much more obvious.

  • For years, Metal Gear mastermind Hideo Kojima claimed that every Metal Gear Solid is his last Metal Gear Solid. By MGS4, that seemed to be his best chance. He wrapped up the “Solid” saga, answered longstanding questions, and made “nanomachines” the most-used word in gaming for 2008.* And hey, MGS4 was a fine sequel, so Kojima could have walked away with his head high.**

    *Not a real statistic.

    **Instead of being pushed out of Konami, if recent (March ’15) rumors are any indication. At least now Kojima can finally work on something new.