First I’d like to say Merry Christmas to all, and I hope you get the games you want! I wish that on this eve that everyone on Destructoid is doing fine. I surely am, my import copy of rare GBA title Drill Dozer came through the post this morning and I’m going to play the heck out of it when I’ve finished typing this up.
With 2009 finally coming to a close, the many people of this earth are winding down in true seasonal tradition with mince pies, eggnog, and that bad kind of alcohol you only keep for the holidays, as they await the events that are to come in the New Year. And decade! This is quite a big event – one that only happens every ten years – and effectively is the beginning of a new era for us all. Lets hope it’s a good one.
It’s a time for reflection of the months that have just been, and that is what I dedicate this piece to. Regardless of the magnitude of this impending event on our horizon, I won’t undertaking a massively ambitious/awesome list of Destructoid’s epic end-of-the-year standards, but rather pay tribute to this year’s gaming achievements. Of which there have been many! Like the excellent previous year, and the even better year before that, 2009 has brought in an enormous amount of great titles that you’ll likely still be seeking out in the bargain bins well into next year. There are (probably) hundreds of individuals to cover and not enough blog space to fit them all in, but heck it, it’s Christmas, a time for goodwill and all that, so I’m going to give it my best. Anyway, without any further waiting, here is a highly nerdish proposal of the last twelve months of gaming, from my (frankly Nintendo-centric) perspective. Warning: reading this blog in its entirety may induce loss of desired time, light-headedness, and complaints as to why yourfavouritegame wasn’t on there.
January and Febuary (Dawn of 2009 edition) The beginning of the year couldn’t have gone more swiftly, as we were given a pair of fantastic handheld titles in the form of Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia and the previously unreleased-in-the-UK Chrono Trigger. For some of us this would be a bigger event than the end of the decade itself, but those shiftier among us in Britain (like myself) had been rummaging through play-asia a few months before, and imported a copy from the States. What was I doing at midnight, New Years Day when a friend called me up to see how I was celebrating? Why, I was lying flat on the couch with my chunky old DS, fighting my way through Zeal Palace. Best. Celebration. Ever.
Arguably the biggest release in this period though was Street Fighter 4; a beautiful game whose months of sheer mountainous praise had enveloped me to the point that, upon playing the game I’ll still enjoy it even though I totally suck. Hopping online and having my ass handed to me within ten seconds because I can’t pull off a combo has never been this much fun! I’ve taken a vow that, one day, I will pass the easy difficulty on arcade, and maybe even have a shot at normal.
The end of February also brought in the Guinness Book of World Records’ sweariest game ever, House of the Dead: Overkill, and saw the advent of Nintendo whoring out old Gamecube games and selling them for next to full price, with New Play Control Pikmin. Find them for less than a tenner and they’re worth a shot, but for the £30 retail price, Nintendo you can shove them up your poo-hole.
This signified a turning point in British history. The point where Square finally removed the boot from our collective ass.
March (M Rated Edition) This month proved if anything that “mature” games on Nintendo systems don’t sell. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars was an excellent little top down kill-em-all-up, but didn’t achieve Rockstar’s usual big-name sales, resulting in a PSP port later in the year. MadWorld also did little for Sega and Platinum Games, despite being quite a cool title. Maybe that it’s the kind of game you really have to stick with to enjoy hindered its progress. My first impressions were that it was a rather gory yet boring affair, but it wasn’t until a few months later upon popping the disc back in that I finally started to appreciate it for what it was.
Online flame wars were robust in March with the excellent Killzone 2’s release (isn’t Killzone one of the stupidest names for a game you’ve ever heard?) and the awesome but just a little bit disappointing Resident Evil 5. Did anyone else get the sense that Weskers’ character had been transformed from ten years of ultimate-cool super villain with all the answers, to a regular old megalomaniac nut who wants to take over the world in that game?
Elsewhere, Americans were treated to Excitebots this month, with not a European release window anywhere to be seen. Coincidentally, it was released around the time that envious Brits began regarding 2008’s UK exclusive, Disaster: Day of Crisis, from “well it wasn’t that good anyway” back to “well at least we have this.” At least they were paid tribute in the charmingly British Henry Hatsworth later that month. No, we don’t all wear bowler hats and drink cups of tea, but it would be cool if we did.
April and May (Musical Edition) Was the time for the music rhythm game to shine. The massive tracklist accompanying Rock Band 2 is finally released on PS3 even though Microsoft had it for the last five months, with the fully functional Wii version slated to release alongside. Except it doesn’t. And is systematically given a new release date and delayed each month until competitor Guitar Hero 5 comes out. Sucks to be you, Wii version of Rock Band 2. Quirky Rhythm Paradise/Heaven/Tengoku depending on your region also came to light within these months, offering some challenging fun gameplay for anyone who has the patience to complete its impossible tasks. Watching the little medal in the corner crumble as you fail a perfect run is a nigh on soul crushing experience that your average human wont be able to bear. Which is why my copy currently sits on the shelf half-finished.
Did you buy Little Kings Story? Nope, neither did I, but I probably should have as it’s been one of the most critically well received games of the year. It’d be a few more months ‘til America got it, but the game is released to high praise and low sales, quickly dropping its price by up to half. Why do I still not have a copy at that bargain price? Because stupid.
Pokémon Platinum proves to be more of the same, and Punch Out!! has me fearing whether motion controls will make this new game somehow easier, to make up for the time delay it takes to swing rather than press a button. After a hands on, my initial doubts about the title are silently put to rest, yet in the worst way possible. This is one of the absolute hardest games on the Wii to date. I’m stuck on Piston Hondo in Title Defence mode, and probably will be for many months to come. And that’s not even half the game! I just want to fight the secret guest character at the end already!
Oh, and Majora’s Mask comes out on the Virtual Console. In three words I’d describe it as a darkly fairytale masterpiece, and you should have already completed it three times it by now. If not, why not?
My perfect Christmas gifts: An outside-world nullifying chair, a Classic Controller Pro, and 1000 Nintendo points to buy Majora's Mask with. Take note.
June and July (Everyone only cares about E3 Edition) The DSi is out by now, and so is DSiWare, but nobody cares about that at the moment. Everyone is too hung up on the debate about which is better: the apparently Xbox exclusive Prototype, or the definitely Playstation exclusive Infamous. Given the kind of rabid ranting that goes on here you’d be hard pressed to find any facts within this “debate” (read: full scale war), and having played neither myself I’m not in the position to make a judgement call, so I suggest you’d divert your attention to Bloom Blox Blash Party for a second: the game that carries far too many ‘B’s in its typeface. Its fun though, so I can excuse it for being stupid to voice.
June was also the month where Europe managed to one-up America once more on the Wii, with the release of Another Code R: Something About Memories. Those still bitter about Excitebots can finally rest now that the balance is finally regained, and once more acknowledge Disaster as the middling-average game it was (Now that I think about it, we still don’t have Mario Super Sluggers yet. Or an official Trauma Center 2 release). Oh, and Trace Memory fans in America, you can assume that the dog-doo dropped through your letterbox on the 26th was Reggie doing a quick hit-and-run. Because he hates you all.
Oh, and after all the fanfare for some reason, The Conduit: Special Edition (as opposed to its nonexistent regular edition) comes out. And its crap. I called it The Condushit after finishing the five-hour campaign, because shit is a word that sounds like it and means bad which is also a word that accurately describes my experience with The Conduit. A drab, lifeless shooter with the only saving grace being some nice controls and its (now hacked/butchered) multiplayer. Just rubbish, I say. I only hope that The Grinder turns out to be more entertaining.
The true highlight of the J months for me was easily the arrival of Motion Plus. It may have come bundled with a couple of sports games in June, but it wasn’t until six weeks later when the real showpiece hit the shelves. Making a sword arc in Wii Sports Resort is a flawless and amazing feat to witness, in a package that’s full of technological achievements. Whether it’s flying your plane over Wuhu Island, or carefully aiming your bow at a lingering piece of fruit on the horizon, Resort is an absolute joy to experience. Sure a couple of the twenty or so games are a bit guff, but there is a heck of a lot to enjoy here. If only it came with two Motion Plus devices it would be perfect. Or maybe if Nintendo just decided to give us Brits a break and lower their hardware prices a little. A full kitted out Wii Remote over here can cost upwards of £70!
August and September (Why did you forget about the PSPgo Edition) First I’d like to give a big sarcastic thank you to Namco-Bandai, who after six months of being available elsewhere, finally decide to release Tales of Vesperia in the UK just mere weeks after the announcement of an upcoming extra-featured PS3 version. Release date pending. I’ve been waiting ages for that title to come here, but now feel the irrational need to hold off even longer so not to own the inferior version. It’s slightly annoying.
Right now you should be out of the shops and in the living room downloading stuff, like Fat Princess, Shadow Complex, as well as the entire Summer of Arcade line-up. If leaving the house is on the cards though, August held the winner of the coveted Guinness Book of World Records Made Up award for best gaming graphic novel adaptation. Arkham Asylum brings together a classic cast and plays a quality game to boot, far better received than this years’ other big licensed game, Ghostbusters. Also in August is Nintendo’s quick-to-issue apology for The Conduit; the handsomely bargainous Metroid Prime Trilogy. Its strange how they decide to release the two NPC games worth playing along with their two-year-old Wii counterpart in a reasonably priced box while other NPC games get given the £Stupid treatment, but I won’t question their logic because this is a great deal. The only thing to weep over is how we got given a cardboard sleeve around a plastic box, while America got a fancy metal case. Darn you overseas people and your nice things.
For the vintage music lovers out there, The Beatles happened, and it was good. For one of the most ambitious projects of the year, albeit in gaming history, capturing the magic and vibrancy of the Fab Four was a feat that could have gone either way, yet Harmonix nailed it. The game doesn’t play as a cash-in on the rhythm genre, but a document and celebration of the gang’s career, bringing in a whole new audience hurtling towards their classic albums. Any of those snobs whose opinion dictates that music games are some kind of parasite on the industry because they’re “not the proper way people should be listening” can go stick it. Admittedly, I wasn’t a big fan of music before I got my first Guitar Hero about three years ago, but I’m certainly thankful for the experiences that these games have gave me now. My new favourite band could come with the next disc or piece of DLC I decide to purchase, which is an excitement in itself!
Handheld’s round off the end of August and September, with Square-Enix’s hilariously angst ridden Dissidia: Final Fantasy, the second chapter of the first Professor Layton trilogy, and Kirby’s year-long delayed DS adventure, Super Star Ultra. On the subject of long DS delays, when are we going to get releases for Contra 4 and Chibi Robo: Park Patrol? Come on Nintendo of Europe; fess up with them games. We know you have them somewhere.
"You have spunk kid, but all the spunk in the world wont save you now." Actual line from the game. Now I realize why this was never localised for the UK.
October (Game of the Year Edition) Its getting colder outside and the nights are becoming longer, which is a perfect excuse to start playing more videogames. Yes that’s pretty much what’s been going down for the last six warmer months, but at least I have an excuse not to go outside now without feeling like a loser. Lucky that these dark times are those when all the biggest releases are finally cast upon us.
At the beginning of October I told my partner of a game she may be interested in called Dragon Age: Origins, which was quickly shirked off as “not Elder Scroll’s enough.” Then at the end of November she learned there was man-on-man elf sex in it and ordered it that very day. Clocking around nine of sixteen waking hours in front of the TV once it had arrived, I had to drag her vacant shell off the couch just so we could spend some time together. Apparently a good game if you’re into large-scale role-playing games and/or slash fiction.
About five Game of the Year editions were released in October, chronicling last winters biggest exploits with al the DLC. Gears of War, Left 4 Dead, Fable II, I guess Halo 3: ODST (in the sense that it’s a multiplayer compilation) come back to public eye, along with Fallout 3 on both consoles. Fun fact: purchasing each individual DLC pack for Fallout 3 (only released last month) will cost you roughly twice as much as buying the GOTY online. £8 x 5 = £40, or buy it from Gamestation for £20. Makes you wonder why they even bothered releasing it as a downloadable, let alone put that peculiar price tag on each one.
On the subject of Fallout, that along with Borderlands made people wonder why western RPG’s can’t do satisfying endings in 2009. Like Bioshock beforehand, these were each great experiences, somewhat spoiled by a rather tacky conclusion. Is it just that the words don’t exist in the English language that say, “this is the end and it was good.”
Finally, Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is a game I’ll be receiving for Christmas if my brother has taken to the not-so-subtle hints I’ve been giving him for the past week. “This is the game, here is where you can buy it, now go fetch,” are the wise words of the day, and words that I hope will take effect. Maybe waving the expensive copy of Left 4 Dead 2 I got for his birthday will further help sway him into getting it.
I’d do a bit about Demon’s Souls, but y’know, we don’t have it yet. Not even a release date. Bastards.
November (Boycott edition) November was full of big things; big game releases, big spending for the holidays, the movie Big was probably on some channel that nobody paid attention to, but most of all, it was home to some big boycotts. Two of the vastest titles of the year, and also two of the most successful, were subject to some gargantuan groups of people refusing to buy their enormous products (That’s the last time I use a thesaurus). And it wasn’t just limited to angry parents and nutty politicians this time. Whether it was Modern Warfare 2’s lack of dedicated serpents, or Left 4 Dead 2’s mere existence, gamers across the world found reason not to be happy. Many brought them anyway though, and all was well again.
After years of waiting, November finally bought Sony the opportunity to say that it’s the best time to buy a PS3, without lying. A fancy re-design and a ton of exclusives did a lot for the Playstation brand this year. Of course, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is cropping up to be a lot of our Game of 2009’s, whereas the final risqué titled Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time shows us the meaning of colour again. It’s exactly how platformers should be: bright with lots of shiny bits flying towards you, and would certainly be on my Christmas wish list if it weren’t for the fact that I only got around to starting the second game on PS2 yesterday.
It was a real return for the platformer this month, not limited to the 3D offerings however. New Super Mario Brothers Wii (they are going to regret that name one day) comes to the public, and is an absolute blast to play with a friend. I went through it with my Mario-hating partner and had a lot of fun together, shocked that it quickly became her favourite game at the time. It wasn’t all great for the title though: kids hated on the super guide as it apparently made the game “too casual,” whatever that means, and the usual complaints are filed saying that it was too easy. This is countered by my brandishing a seven-hour Modern Warfare 2 Veteran completion time, and the many hollow indents I still need to fill with star coins in the near-impossible World 9.
Also, Vanillaware’s beautiful Muramasa: The Demon Blade reaches earth, along with A Bloy and his Blob: 2009’s other game with difficult-to-pronounce ‘B’ abuse. Couple these three side scroller’s with Wario Land: The Shake Dimension and have yourself a new-age retro party.
Everyone clamours to be blue toad in multiplayer. Because he's awesome.
December (Signing off edition) And so it finally comes to an end, with only the last few days to go. One of them holds a title turning out to be one of my most anticipated of the year, proving that there’s still life left in this old cycle. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is Nintendo’s decade swansong that I can’t wait to get my hands on, hopefully managing to better Phantom Hourglass in my mind. And if you’re in the States you’re probably putting the final touches on God of War Collection or Silent Hill: Shattered Memories: both of which will be arriving here early next year.
So that’s 2009 in gaming as I saw it. You may now pick apart this humble tribute and ask me pressing questions such as “why is somethingorother not in it?” or “what is it that makes you hate the PSP?” Sure, there are many games that I’ve forgotten or are currently ignorant of, which will probably make up the cheap-bin titles I’ll be into next year. Heck, I still have copies of Mass Effect and Lost Planet still waiting to be put in the disc tray, and they’re from back in 2007.
Lots of things happened this year. We got to see some new guy spend his first year in office as president of the USA, the King of Pop passed away, the large Hadron Collider didn’t decimate the entire universe, and Cowboy Bebop got a DVD re-release, amongst many other events that will certainly start off the years to come. I’m going to maybe take a moment to think about those non-gaming events that have affected my life over the last 365 days, because videogames, as fascinating as they are, aren’t the only important aspect of our lives.
Okay, moment’s over. I’m off to my Game Boy Advance.
Cheers to everyone at Destructoid, and in the community. Happy Holidays, and here’s to a great new year!