Game of the Year awards are almost never consensus picks. Different gamers like different types of games. Here at Snackbar Games, we have a diverse staff of writers and editors, and between now and the end of the year, they’ll each be telling you, however they choose, about their top ten of ’08. Today, Chris Ingersoll (Vyolynce) talks about the games that got him hooked, as well as the ones that got away.
Before I list my top games of 2008, I feel the need to add an important disclaimer: I did not play a lot of (new) games this year. I never do, really, since I don’t subscribe to GameFly or any other rental service, so most of what I play is purchased outright (this has changed recently as we started receiving review copies here at Snackbar, but not much). That leads to delays as I wait for the price to drop or have to prioritize things like being able to pay my bills — and this past summer especially, fill up my gas tank; every time it cost me $50 to fill up, a part of my brain said “well, there goes another Wii game…”.
So here is a quick list of games that I did not play this year and would have liked to had circumstances been different:
Advance Wars: Days of Ruin — I’ve played all three other entries in this series and enjoyed them
Castlevania: Judgement — the concept intrigued me
deBlob — I’m sure I’ll pick this one up soon, but it was a victim of our economic situation
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates — loved the original FF:CC, but I would have had to buy this one twice, so my wife and I could play together; that simply wasn’t happening
Lost Winds — I was on the verge of downloading this several times, but there always seemed to be something else I wanted more, like Defend Your Castle (which just missed making my Top 10)
Penny Arcade: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness — mostly because it isn’t available for Wii yet. I hope it will be someday…
Star Wars: the Force Unleashed — mixed reviews and financial issues kept me away from this one
Strongbad’s Cool Game for Attractive People — love point-and-click adventures, hate purchasing episodic content
Tetris Party — another WiiWare download that was always on the edge of actually happening
The World Ends with You — Dear Square-Enix: your DS titles should not cost $40. Signed, me.
WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 — I received a review copy of last year’s outing and was highly disappointed; I wanted to see if they improved, but we never received this year’s edition and after being burned constantly on the GameCube I vowed to never purchase a THQ WWE title with my own money.
Wii Fit — too expensive, and not really my thing
So… yeah. There are some big titles up there, I know. TWEWY would probably have made my final Top Ten for sure. Then there are all of the great games released this year that weren’t available on either the DS or Wii… it actually amazed me that I had enough games that I played this year to even make a list. But I did (barely…), so here we go.
Honorable Mention: Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World (Wii) — my review score: 3/5
It’s been a long time since I had a good console RPG experience. While DotNW wasn’t quite as epic as others in the past, it was a solid sequel to a game that served a similar function on the GameCube several years ago. I’m not a huge fan of the Tales series, but it’s better than nothing, which is what RPG-loving Nintendo fans like myself have sadly come to expect (on our consoles, at any rate).
10. Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii) — my review score: 5/5
A recurring theme on my 2008 Top Ten will be “games I will most likely still be playing when writing next year’s list”; any time you can say that about a game, it’s a winner. AC:CF is barely even a game by conventional definitions, but I’ve loved the child-like innocence of the Animal Crossing games for six years now. There’s absolutely no stress, and what you get out of the experience is proportional to what you put into it. Say what you will about Nintendo’s focus on non-core gamers, but I predict that AC:CF will join several other Wii titles as constant fixtures in the Top Monthly Software Sales for the lifetime of the system.
9. Sam & Max: Season One (Wii; also PC) — Snackbar review score 3/5
I played Sam & Max Hit the Road as a freshman in college and loved it; the quirky humor, the solid point & click gameplay, the puzzles… it was a masterwork from the LucasArts/Lucasfilm Games people. The new episodic stuff from Telltale Games faithfully harkens back to that time, although they clearly spent the first couple of episodes getting a feel for the characters. “Abe Lincoln Must Die!” (Episode 4) is probably the finest of the season, but all six are fairly solid. I eagerly await the recently-confirmed Wii release of Season Two for more hijinks, especially if it retails for the same bargain price right out of the gate.
8. Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS) — Snackbar review score 4/5
Logic puzzles are a passion of mine. A game packed with over 150 of them was ironically a no-brainer, even before you consider the unique animation style. I solved them all, I eagerly anticipated the weekly “downloads” of additional puzzles (really just unlocking puzzles that were already on the cart, but still), and I still want more. The third game in the series is about to be released in Japan, so hopefully translation teams will get cracking on the second one for those of us in the West soon.
7. Okami (Wii; also PS2) — no Snackbar review (yet)
I didn’t pick it up for the PS2 because I don’t like the Dual Shock. I didn’t pick it up immediately when it was released for the Wii for many of the same reasons I outlined above. My wife bought it for my birthday a couple of months ago (along with Lego Batman), and I plowed through it. This game is simply beautiful, compelling, and fun to play; the Wii version has some waggle issues, especially in combat, and the brush strokes have some problems being recognized, but this is a solid Zelda-style adventure no matter what system you play it on.
6. Mario Kart Wii (Wii) — my review score 5/5
The game that led to the phrase “swearing wheel” being coined in my home, Mario Kart Wii was especially notable for it’s solid online play, a rarity on Nintendo titles. Although I think I prefer the GameCube’s Double Dash!! overall, MK Wii was more of the same winning Kart formula that Nintendo invented over a decade ago. While it still has some issues (the bikes are almost unbeatable once you learn how to really use them), I love the Wii Wheel and getting together with friends to screw each other over with blue shells and POW blocks is still fun… up to a point, anyway.
5. No More Heroes (Wii) — Snackbar review 5/5
Suda51 of Grasshopper Studios is a very “love-him-or-hate-him” type of game designer. He is constantly pushing boundaries with his “punk” philosophy, parodying genres and making artistic statements. Sometimes it doesn’t work so well — I didn’t “get” last year’s Contact for the DS, for example. No More Heroes, on the other hand, hit all the right notes for me. I didn’t care that the overworld was (intentionally) bland and boring, or that the plot seemed to be crudely stapled together from random ideas pulled from a hat; the action was intense, the humor top-notch, and the presentation nearly perfect. I wasn’t able to pick this one up until it came down in price, but I will be among the first in line to grab the sequel early next year.
4 World of Goo (WiiWare; also PC) — Snackbar review (PC version) score 5/5
For many Wii owners, 2008 was a dry year as far as big releases were concerned. Fortunately, the launch of WiiWare helped to fill in the gaps a bit. I had been waiting for World of Goo the minute I first read about it, back when we were first hearing about the download service. After agonizing months of waiting, it finally arrived a couple of months ago, and it was every bit as glorious as I’d hoped it would be. At its core, World of Goo is nothing more than a demo of a physics engine; taking that simple (but solid) concept and adding addictive puzzle gameplay, a unique presentation, and a few twists along the way results in one of the finest games to be released for the year — and this was all essentially accomplished by two guys. Simply brilliant.
If you pirated the PC version, there is a special place reserved for you in whatever hell you believe in. It wasn’t even DRM-protected, you tool.
3. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) — Snackbar review score 5/5
This was it. As far as “core” gamers were concerned, this was the 500-po
und gorilla (and over thirty other familiar characters besides Donkey Kong) on the Wii’s line-up this year — and, before several last-minute delays, parts of 2007 as well. All of the hype, all of the anticipation, all of the waiting… on March 8, 2008, they were all paid off. Much like the GameCube’s Melee edition, this game is a love letter from Nintendo to its fans, and we love them right back for it. My friends and I still get together for some Smashery around once a week or so, even if I’ve pretty much abandoned attaining any more of the single-player challenges. That’s nine months of gaming, people; how does that not make a Top Ten list?
2. Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection (Wii; also PS2 and PSP) — my review score 4/5
While it seems somewhat cliche to say this, I really have been a fan of “the silver ball” ever since I was a young boy. Getting ten faithful reproductions of classic Williams tables (a few of which I’ve actually played here in the real world) on one disc for only $20 made this title one of the best deals for me ever. If my father owned a Wii, I would have bought this for him — he loves smacking Funhouse’s Rudy in the face every bit as much as I do. I have recommended it to anyone who is old enough to remember arcades as they once were. This disc would be one of the five I get to bring with me to a desert island. No one else anywhere on the internet will include this game in their Top Ten for 2008, but for me personally it was very nearly the perfect title.
1. Mega Man 9 (WiiWare; also PS3 Shop and XBox360 Arcade) — my review score 5/5
As far as 2008 was concerned, Mega Man 9 was the perfect title for me. I’ve loved the classic Mega Man game play concept ever since I first read about the original game in some random gaming magazine my mom picked up way back when. When she told me she couldn’t find me Mega Man 2 for Christmas, I was crushed but understood that things like this happened (I was 12 at the time); when I opened it Christmas morning, I was like a little kid again. That game was the soundtrack to my life for pretty much all of 7th grade as I played it constantly. The challenge, the weapons, the music… the old 8-bit Mega Man experience. As games moved to 3D and times changed, we hadn’t experienced its like in ages.
Mega Man 9 brought all of that back, pixel-perfect, for the low price of $10. You can’t beat that.