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For a little while there, it looked like 2009 would be another rough year for the PlayStation 3. Sony’s flagship console started the year with a couple of strong exclusive games, although these didn’t really set the world on fire (unless you count the fanboy ranting that erupted around Killzone 2 and inFamous as “world on fire”), and when E3 rolled around, Sony looked to be playing an embarrassing game of me-too with Wii Motion Plus and the just-unveiled Project Natal.
Above: Please no
Beginning in late August, though, the PS3’s outlook suddenly and dramatically improved. First came the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum and its PS3-exclusive Joker levels. Then the PS3 Slim came roaring in out of nowhere – bringing with it the noticeably improved 3.0 firmware – and its $300 price tag proved to be the kick in the ass that hundreds of thousands of gamers needed to at last embrace the system. Finally, SCEA unleashed a one-two punch in the form of Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time and Uncharted 2, with the latter flooring critics, garnering near-universal acclaim and silencing haters.
Above: Finally, an indisputable killer app!
As the year draws to a close, the PS3 still hasn’t trounced its rivals, but it’s made itself a much more attractive proposition – and with MAG, Heavy Rain and God of War III all set to release in the first half of 2010, next year could very well belong to Sony.
Much as we liked the first Assassin’s Creed, it was hard to see it as anything more than a training run once we saw the epicness that was its sequel. Simultaneously fixing the original’s problems while hugely expanding its scope, Assassin’s Creed II took one of the most divisive franchises of 2007 and turned it into something big, bloody and incredibly fun.
Punch-Out!!, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Street Fighter IV and numerous Konami ReBirths... There wasn’t exactly a shortage of classic games that made a successful leap forward in time this year, but XSEED’s title appeared out of nowhere and bested them all without even relying on an established property. Based on a Japanese TV show you’ve never heard of, Retro Game Challenge not only recaptured the essence of classic games like Galaga, Ninja Gaiden and Dragon Quest pitch-perfectly, it celebrated the entire experience of actually being a gamer during that time.
Technically, the game stars a grade school kid and his friend, and is set primarily in a living room with a Famicom… which makes us love it all the more! The new, old games are ridiculously fun in their own right, plus combing through a fictional game magazine for tips and tricks as part of the overall gameplay has strangely validated our entire existence.
In any other medium, Chair and Epic Games’ salute to Super Metroid would seem like a derivative slap in the face. But instead it reaffirmed our love for the Nintendo classic, and showed that there’s plenty of fun (and financial success) to mine from making old new again.
Much like the Oscars tend to ignore movies released in a certain time period, videogame award lists often forget that January, February and March even exist. Unfortunately for Capcom, that’s when they tend to unleash their biggest hits, which this year happens to include the superb Resident Evil 5. It was undoubtedly the highest profile release of the season, with millions sold in a matter of weeks, but now, in late December, who’s still punching blood-caked Majini villagers into oblivion?
RE5 didn’t revolutionize shooters like its predecessor, nor did it fundamentally alter the nature of the Resident Evil franchise. Hell, it wasn’t even particularly scary. It was, however, a face-explodingly awesome action title with some of the best co-op we played all year. There’s new DLC on the way for early 2010 (there they go with that Jan~March stuff again), so even when RE5 becomes a hot topic again, it’ll be both too late and too early for any notable award. Never forget!
Even the few that played Deadly Creatures can’t remember if it came out in ’09 or ’08, which is ironic considering the game’s story is far from forgettable, especially when you realize you’re not just playing a random spider and scorpion – you’re actually playing the hands of Fate. Such a unique premise, wasted and forgotten.