Getting its start as indie freeware for the PC, Cave Story finally found its way to consoles this year as the foremost WiiWare title of the last 12 months, even if that field of contenders is fairly sparse. It coming to a Nintendo console, and then later to DSiWare, was fitting in how much inspiration the title takes from NES classics. In the spirit of Castlevania and with Mega Man, you explore and blast your way through a cleverly designed 2D world with a great soundtrack and a surprisingly engrossing plot.
Shantae: Risky’s Revenge
Above: Since every DS screen looks a little crappy by itself, let’s just go with videos for the DSiWare games
Shantae was an inventive Game Boy platformer with some of the best graphics that system ever saw, but it got ignored by many thanks to its release being too close to the GBA’s lauch. After many years and delays, the sequel subtitled Risky’s Revenge finally hit DSiWare this year and developer WayForward (A Boy and His Blob Wii) made another retro-flavored classic. Again, the adventure of the saucy genie Shantae had some of the best 2D graphics on its system, where old school platforming mixed with new ideas. But can we next the next sequel in less than eight years?
Not the deepest of games, Photo Dojo had a couple things on its side. First it was some of the most simple and silly fighting fun to be had using one button and the DSi’s camera. And second, it was free at its US launch, and currently goes for $2, so it’s one of the best values all year. I’m not saying it’s great, but out of all the trash on DSiWare that costs 200 pennies, Photo Dojo was your best choice.
Dark Void Zero
In a rare case of the simple spin-off outperforming its parent game, Dark Void Zero was an ingenious creation. A “lost 8-bit classic,” Zero was an original title that acted as a prequel to the disappointing Dark Void and played like your typical Metroidvania. But its old school love, including a really cute moment of blowing into a virtual NES cart, made it a memorable part of this year’s DS history.
The best remakes and ports
Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge
Following in the style of 2009’s special edition of the first game, LucasArts gave Monkey Island 2 the all-star treatment. Not only did Guybrush’s classic adventure get a graphical, sound, and control update, but the clever PC classic had a feature more games should strive for. The humorous masterminds behind the classic, Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer, and Dave Grossman recorded a very funny commentary track to their game. Perhaps not every developer is as entertaining as those guys, but they should be.
Earthworm Jim HD
For masochistic gamers who loved beautifully-crafted 2D graphics featuring annelids, flying cows, and cruel water levels, nothing was better than Earthworm Jim. The distinctive classic at last returned to consoles this year and the porters went above and beyond. The art got a dazzling HD upgrade and the difficulty could be adjusted so your average player could finally enjoy it. The new bonus levels and online multiplayer were just surplus to an already stuffed package.
Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition
Zeno Clash was one of the most satisfyingly weird PC titles of 2009, and the indie first-person action game finally came to consoles with assistance from publisher Atlus. An eccentric mix of fantasy, steam punk and punching, it tells of one man’s search for purpose in a violent, harsh world. With welcome extra features for the XBLA release, Zeno Clash might not be the most polished game, but its outlandish tone sticks with you.
Prince of Persia Trilogy HD
Our UK readers might not know this, but us Yanks were deprived of a boxed copy of the HD PS3 versions of Ubisoft’s esteemed Prince of Persia games. Fortunately, all three hit the PlayStation Network soon enough here, so a whole new set of players could enjoy the classic, ground-breaking adventures with upgraded graphics. Microsoft could learn a lot from Sony’s success with these HD remakes, and we hope 2011’s Beyond Good & Evil HD comes out even better.
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