Yeah, yeah, I know, nobody cares... just figured i'd give the ol' dtoid blog some love since more people read this than read brilli.am/writes
where this was originally posted. To see it on my blog
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Here they are: the ten games of 2008 that really tickled my fancy. It's hard to say they're a cut above, considering how deep this year's releases were, but, if anything, this year proved for me that it's the year of the downloadable title (I bought two of these games on Steam, and three on Xbox Live Arcade). It's a scary future, because I find the lending and borrowing of games really important to me as someone who likes sharing and discussing the medium (more on that another day, I suppose), but it's hard to complain when the games are of such high quality (and, in the case of four, are so cheap. The other was expensive, but so many of my friends had already bought it that the lending thing was irrelevant).
10. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
I haven't played very far into it so far, but everything I've seen, I've loved. It's not the pacing, because it's slow; it's not the combat, because it's pretty basic so far; it's not the voice acting, because it's deplorable. Honestly, I think the reason I love this game (and, incidentally, 3) is the graphic design and the ease of use. I think one of the greatest secrets of a good RPG is a menu system that continues to be a joy to use, and P4 nailed it. Furthermore, the high school sim is intriguing, the whodunit is intriguing, and the art is stunning. Now, can this be the last great PS2 game, so I can stop having to plug it back in every few months for the next unbelievably good release?
9. Burnout Paradise
I don't really buy car games. Unless you count GTA IV, this is the only car game I've bought this generation (I got Forza with my 360, so that doesn't count). In fact, it took me a really, really long time to pick it up; it wasn't until I went into a Future Shop and saw it for $20 or $30 (I bought it at the same time that I bought the hilariously excellent Earth Defense Force 2017). What I didn't expect was to get one of those games that you can just throw in when you just want to mess around. It's like the Skate of cars. I don't care about the driving around to start missions, despite the fact that it's just the kind of thing I usually hate, because driving feels good
in this game. More games need to steal this idea: make an engine that is SO GOOD, that nothing can feel like a chore. Go figure, right? Add to that the most progressive, laudable DLC releases in the history of DLC (free stuff, so you don't resell your copy) and you've got a game that nobody should be without.
In spite of there being a lot about this game I didn't like, I still loved a lot about it. I hate laundry-listing games, but the mechanics and the pacing and the art are all utterly top-notch. I LOVE Hellman's art style. What I didn't like was everything else about the presentation; the story, the text dumps, and even the setting left me a little flat. Still, no platforming game has been this incredibly well put-together. Blow might be a bit of a dick, but he knows how to think up insane puzzles, and that's awesome. I hope his next game doesn't leave a bad taste in my mouth like this one did, because he's clearly an incredibly talented director.
7. Rez HD
Yeah, it's a re-release, but two points: firstly, I never got to play the DC/PS2 releases due to scarcity, and secondly, HD is (probably) how the game was meant
to be played. Bad demo alert, though, the first level is very simplistic and not so exciting. It's not until you get into the later levels that you realize how thrilling this game is. By the fifth level, Fear, I am so enrapt that I forget I'm a sack of meat on a chair staring at a glowing picture frame. I forget everything, really. I just listen to some dorky rave song and react to pictures and grin like an idiot. If you doubted this game's quality, check it out anyway. It costs little and doesn't take long. But turn the lights off and sit close to the screen. You won't find better immersion for a while.
Yep, two music games, and nary a Guitar or Rock in their names. I can't remember where I read it (apologies if you said it), but someone said of Audiosurf "If you hate this game, you probably don't like good music." Pretentious, and probably a bit inaccurate, but there's a seed of truth there: if you don't like Audiosurf, you're playing it wrong. I've listened to new records using this, and it makes it even easier for me to absorb them on first listen because I am so intently focussed on little idiosyncrasies. Of course, it doesn't really work for, like, a Bon Iver record as much as it does a Zazen Boys release, but I digress. This game is simple, but as endlessly playable as your music library. I reckon I'll be messing around with this title until they make a new one.
5. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
This only came out in December (in English), and only in Europe (North America is, inexplicably, still waiting on it) so I was hesitant to include it. But, I wanted to, because it's great. It is a Fire Emblem game, to be sure, but unlike some of the most recent entries, it's really thoughtfully laid out and interesting. It forces you to lose a member early, meaning you are less likely to freak out about the inevitable casualties you face. Class changes are more flexible than in previous iterations, meaning that no character is as irreplaceable as before. The battles, while difficult, are not hair-pullingly maddening meat grinders. Each is a well-thought out set piece, unlike the decidedly mediocre Gamecube and (especially) Wii installments. While it might not stand quite up to the GBA games (I haven't gotten far enough yet to judge) it is a great handheld turn-based strategy. And, since that genre is like catnip to me, I can't help but adore this game.
4. Left 4 Dead
As I mentioned before, this game was instrumental to my friends' ability to keep in touch once everyone moved across this giant, freezing country. Now, I'll be honest: this is a game best experienced in groups of four or eight. Once you throw strangers into the mix, it's less fun. But, when you play with a crew that you've been gaming with ages, and you know each other's weird gaming idiosyncracies, and you're forced to take care of each other while a sadistic AI attempts to bleed you out over the course of a dozen incredibly thoughtful set pieces, you end up realizing how awesome those gaming relationships can really be. My favourite gaming moment of the year was probably when Andy was charging ahead, and Angus was trying to be super-careful and thoughtful, and Travis was accidentally shooting everyone in the back, and I wasn't paying any attention and a smoker choked me to death. Even though we hadn't really displayed those tendenceies in this game yet, it was so us
. And it was great. Add to that some of the most thoughtful social satire in zombie-related media since Dawn of the Dead ("I miss the Internet," the how-many-zombies-I-killed pissing contests, Zoey calling zombie bullshit) and you've got a game that was really worth the long wait.
3. Space Invaders Extreme
Space Invaders Extreme, like Pac-Man Championship Edition last year, took an old game, flipped it on its ass, and made a new, more modern, incredibly exciting game. Aside from speeding the game up and turning it into a veritable laser light show of a game, they do a lot of little nice things that remind you that you're not playing as game designed to eat your quarters. If you fail a level (there are five, with branching levels of difficulty), you can start it over. If you turn the game off, you can come back to that level later. Or, you can start over from level 1, but it never forces
you to-- it makes it your own choice. But, the point is, it's thrilling. It's nimble and colorful and, while there are only five "bosses" (yes, there are bosses) in the game, each feels like an inventive use of the game's mechanics. The inclusion of little, commercial-break-sized bits (where it breaks away from the main game and sticks you in a mini-game) gives it a pacing where you never get so used to the speed that it becomes boring. Every time it drops you in, you're thrilled.
2. The World Ends With You
This title is, for lack of a better term, transcendental. It transcends its publisher, Square Enix, by existing as a bold counterpoint to their inaccessible, tradition-laden, committee-made lineup of sure-sale RPGs. It transcends any sort of "action" or "RPG" or "action RPG" genre definition by doing both things better than ny of their permutations. It even transcends what could have been a disasterously stupid setting ("extreme"-looking teens trapped in an "extreme" version of a metropolis's shopping district) by handling it, with as much grace as can be expected from a handheld videogame, maturely. I found myself playing it all of the time, for a while. I was enthralled, in spite of the developer and the setting and the genre and whatever else stood in the way of fun. And, if that's not proof of something awesome, then I need to take a class on what's fun because YOU GOT ME.
There's a lot to be said for a game that just feels
right. N+, more than any game I can remember in the recent past, feels right. Its physics are neither floaty, nor overly frictional and oppressive; the game is as airy and precise as a monofilament whip. And, as such, is as difficult to master. There's also a lot to be said of a game that comes in bite-sized but satisfying chunks; the freedom to play for as much or as little as I want has always been a major sticking point for me (RPGs with "save points" instead of allowing saving anywhere, a prime example of the OPPOSITE effect). Minimalist but clean graphics are, in my opinion, both a lovely use of HD technology and a striking contrast to it. I can't think of a single thing this game does wrong, with the possible exception of too few leaderboards. I'd love to see the current "score" leaderboards complemented by pure time-trial leaderboards, but that's a nitpicky detail for a game that feels so right.
The honorable mentions: (click here for the longer write-up)
These are the games that didn't make the top 10, but only just.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
Professor Layton & The Curious Village
Rainbow Six Vegas 2
World of Goo
The dishonorable mentions: (click here for the longer write-up)
These are the games that disappointed me.
Football Manager 2009
Grand Theft Auto IV
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix
The questionable mentions: (click here for the longer write-up)
These are the games that, for one reason or another, I missed.
Prince of Persia
FIFA Soccer 09
Star Ocean: First Departure
Persona 3 FES
Zoids Assault, Operation Darkness, Spectral Force 3
The Last Guy