Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Games of the Year 2008

Actually, I only played a few games released this year, but here were the highlights for me:

Devil May Cry 4 (PS3/360)
Still Devil May Cry, and, for those who have been there since the beginning, or who have played any of the numerous clones, the experience may seem somewhat tired at this point. It's not as bold as the original DMC, nor as hardcore as DMC3, but it is the most balanced installment yet, combining the crazy combo potential of DMC3 with the much better enemy variety of the first game.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)
This presumed final installment in the saga of Solid Snake miraculously manages to tie together a decade's worth of loose ends (even if it has to cheat at times), while awe-inspiring production more than ever makes it truly less a game than an experience. That said, the gameplay is more versatile than ever before, albeit most of the new mechanics are confined to just the first two acts. The love-it-or-hate-it storytelling can still get bogged down in Kojima-isms, but series devotees wouldn't have it any other way. But let's hope that whoever helms the next Metal Gear takes advantage of the clean slate to give the series a new direction.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)
The series could (and likely does) sell just based on its fanservice premise, but there is some genuinely deep gameplay on offer as well. As a Kirby fan, I love the additions of both Dedede and Meta Knight. I'm less crazy about the Subspace Emissary mode, which just feels like a bloated version of the already awful Adventure mode from Melee, but the story makes it worth the hassle for any Nintendo fan. The Event and Target Smash modes are also disappointingly watered-down compared to Melee, but I suppose these have always been bonuses anyway. The core game is still one of the best local multiplayer experiences on any platform.

The World Ends With You (DS)
Disappointment with the long-awaited The Last Remnant has left many questioning Square-Enix's ability to come up with worthwhile new IPs, but The World Ends With You shows why the company is still the leader when it comes to JRPGs. Developer Jupiter took the multitasking-under-pressure combat of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and carried it to new extremes to create a title that pushes both gaming and gamer to their limits. With fresh aesthetics and a gripping story full of twists, this will go down as one of Square-Enix's all-time greats.

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