Other Games of 2009

For the most part, this list reads as a bunch of not-as-great games from awesome franchises, which might explain both why they’re being mentioned, but why they failed to make the “Best of” list.

List items

  • Band Hero is little more than a brightly colored re-skin of Guitar Hero 5 with a pop set list. That wouldn't be a problem if not for the song selection. I loved GH5, and I love artists like Don McLean ("American Pie") and Counting Crows ("Angels of the Silences"). That being said, do we need THREE Taylor Swift songs? Hilary Duff and the Spice Girls are further proof that I'm not this game's target audience.

  • If Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children has taught us anything, it’s that Square Enix has a strange fascination with stupidly over-the-top fights that makes the craziness of Smash Bros. look pretty tame in comparison. Wait, an unconventional fighting game featuring a publisher’s popular characters? Smash is an easy comparison, but Dissidia stands on its own as a surprisingly enjoyable game. And really, who hasn't wanted to smack Cloud around a bit?

  • I imagine that Shadow Dragon was conceived when someone at Nintendo realized that Marth, a reoccurring fighter in Smash Bros., was not featured in any Fire Emblem game released outside Japan, deciding THAT was a lost opportunity. So they took the original Fire Emblem for Famicom and remade it for DS. Unfortunately, while certain aspects were updated, a lot of Shadow Dragon feels like a Famicom game, especially the script. It also doesn't help that the visuals are pretty ugly.

  • Chinatown Wars has been on a strange journey, starting on DS where it received critical acclaim, but less-than-amazing sales. It was then ported to PSP, where it also didn't sell great (if sales figures on the internet are accurate). Finally, it was brought onto mobile, and while I haven’t heard how sales were, I’d be surprised if iOS fans didn't gobble it up.

  • It’s easy to paint Guitar Hero: Van Halen as a cynical attempt to counter The Beatles: Rock Band. After all, GH: Metallica was a great success, so why not take another popular ‘80s band and mold a game around them? While they’re at it, how about offering the game with Guitar Hero 5?* Unfortunately, GH: Van Halen suffers from a lack of new features found in GH5, and just doesn't have the same care that Harmonix gave The Beatles.

    *Activision may have hoped that consumers would choose GH5 over The Beatles: RB because they would also receive GH: Van Halen, but that game came so late that it was easy to forget that the deal involved GH5. Still, I imagine it swayed some consumers.

  • Kingdom Hearts is such a weird franchise, not only for the convoluted story told over the course of over five games, but how it’s willing to spend entire games on elements of the story that only hardcore fans will take anything away from. Also, it’s ridiculous subtitles. Birth by Sleep? Dream Drop Distance? 358/2 Days?

    358/2 Days spends an entire game with the mysterious Organization XIII and features the friendship between Roxas, Axel, and Xion. Unless you’re paying attention through every other game, only Axel seems to be of importance. Roxas returns at the start of Kingdom Hearts II before being replaced by Sora, while Xion only seems to be referenced. Maybe Kingdom Hearts III will make more use of the events and characters, but so far it seems like 358/2 Days is not essential reading, so to speak.

  • The Orange Box, Super Mario All-Stars, and Metroid Prime Trilogy: three compilations I would recommend without question. Only one of those compilations is in HD, and unfortunately, it’s not Prime Trilogy. What it does have is the excellent motion controls across the three games. It’s also available on Wii U for a measly $20, which is a pretty great deal for three great games.

  • How does one make Rock Band without plastic instruments? The bigger question is why would anyone want to? The answer to both is to combine Rock Band’s aesthetics and songs with Amplitude’s multi-lane gameplay. The results are surprisingly fun, even if RB Unplugged ultimately doesn't feel like a Rock Band game. It also doesn't help that Unplugged shares too many songs with its older sibling on home consoles.

  • The concept is astoundingly simple: name an object and poof, it appears. Bat? Take a few swings at the winged mammal. Cop and criminal? Watch them fight. Lose interest in trying to solve problems the old-fashioned way? Spawn a nuke and see the screen turn white as everything, yourself included, dies.

    Only two problems, both resolved in the sequel: controlling your character with the touch screen was imprecise, and the action stages just weren't as fun as the puzzles stages.

  • When Nintendo revealed the Wii remote, questions arose about what types of objects it could simulate. Unfortunately, the remote wasn't as accurate as hoped, at least until the Wii Motion Plus add-on. Suddenly the idea of playing a semi-realistic (as realistic as you can get in your living room) version of golf wasn't out of the question. Clearly EA thought the same thing, and so we got Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 with Wii Motion Plus support.

    The whole thing worked well. There was just one problem: turns out golf isn't something I want to play all that often, and so the Wii Motion Plus was removed from the remote until Zelda: Skyward Sword.