Friday, December 26, 2008

Special Round's 2008 Games I Liked a Lot (in no particular order)

It's the end of the year, my friends. That means it's also time for a big list. It's my obligation as a blogger to write lists. And I am trying to oblige.

So here's a list of the best games I played this year (trying very hard to stick to games that came out in 2008), in no particular order. I'm not too big a fan of ordered lists. I will include bullet points, though! It's the least I can do.
  • Mother 3 is a rarity. Superbly written, endlessly clever and imaginative, thematically rich in ways that make the vast majority of story-driven video games look like they're from some kind of other, more primitive dimension. It's also emotionally brutal, pulling only one punch in the course of its narrative. The 250-track score is undeniably one of the best in a game ever, and the way it's married to the thoroughly Dragon Questy battle system is perfectly restrained. Probably the only JRPG anyone needs to play, really.
  • Geometry Wars 2 fixes almost all the mistakes of its predecessor. The first game was an enormously flawed arena shooter (best way to get a big score: fly around the arena in circles for multiple days in a row) that inexplicably became the critical darling of both whoever metacritic tracks in addition to the large sub-target audience of pothead programmers with large TVs (I say this with the utmost respect!). With the sequel, we see Bizarre Creations' Stephen Cakebread learning how to make a good arcade game. A long game is minutes long, instead of hours and hours. The Deadline game mode, which lasts 3 minutes and requires a lot of interesting techniques in order to score well, features a complex rank system akin to those of arcade shooting games that adjusts its difficulty to the player's ability. And the way the upper-right corner of the screen shows your friends' scores at all times, updating as you get better? Great idea!
  • Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden is video game satire done exactly right. It treads into the theater of the absurd, plays a couple games of b-ball and leaves after a few hours. Better than the games it's lampooning, Barkley is careful to not overstay its welcome and to keep a straight face, no matter how stupid it gets. That people who don't get the joke took the game at face value as a "serious rpg" is all that needs to be said. If you can't play Mother 3 for whatever reason, play this instead.
  • Braid was pretty great. Especially if you drink and you get drunk or if you smoke weed and you get high.
  • The World Ends With You was... shit, that's another JRPG. Uh oh. TWEWY is a game that reminded me of a time when Square was not quite the relatively boring developer that it is now. Lots of progressive ideas that make numbers going up considerably more fun than normal, coherent, well-produced aesthetics, a loving and gutsy localization, and an unbelievably insane battle system thing. Oh yeah! It also had some funky music. Inexplicably good game.
  • Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer is the DS port of the super charming Super Famicom roguelike that has warmed the hearts of millions. What? It's only sold a a few thousand copies in the US? Son of a bitch. Don't let cult-hit unpopularity stop you from playing this game, which plays a little like Nethack with a lot more personality and less absurd bullshit for you deal with. Even better, the game actually teaches you how to play it. I think that's a benchmark for any difficult game, these days: why make the player look outside of the game itself in order to attain basic proficiency? The obvious answer is because youtube and niconico douga make it easier than ever for players to share information, but it's the thought that counts, guys. Shiren gives a shit. Will you?
  • Honorable mention goes to the following almost great games...
  1. Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix for being a great game that is also terribly, terribly buggy, crashing the 360 outright every other time I start the game up. Backbone Entertainment, you are an awful developer. Not awful enough to ruin Super Turbo, but almost!
  2. No More Heroes, you are almost a fantastic game! So, so close. Let us focus on the good things, like the superb writing, voice acting and cutscene direction. The boss fights are also really good. Let us focus less on the bad things that are debatably "the point," like the barren cityscape and kinda monotonous combat and stuff like that. I'm sure the sequel will be awesome.
  3. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia is, finally, a modern Castlevania with some thought evident in its construction. Occasionally hard as hell, lighter on the OCD, and the bosses are mostly great. The amount of graphic reuse during some of the outdoor areas is bewildering and unfortunate, but the game leaves you with a good last impression, and that's important: these games haven't been able to do that for years. There are still obvious things wrong with this game (the villagers and their retarded fetch-quests, especially), but considering the brainless nature of its predecessors, it's still deserving of some high-fives. Or are they almost high-fives? Yeah, pretty sure they're real.
That wraps it up for this year. I'm sure I forgot at least a couple great games from this year, but I gotta wrap this thing up. Thanks for reading, and have a rockin' new year, ok?

1 comment:

nabbercow said...

3 cheers for pothead programmers! Hip hop paraaade!

Also, a shout out to bullet points