Happy New Year, dear reader. 2008 saw me playing a lot more games than I remembered before setting my noggin to compiling a list. I thought it would be rather short, but it appears I actually did purchase and enjoy a rather vast and varied multitude of games. I'll be summing up my favorites over the next few days, and giving them silly little awards.
BEST STORY, BEST MUSIC - Ace Attorney series (Phoenix Wright etc.)
While most of this series came out in previous years (the original Japanese game being released in 2001), both its latest installment and my exhaustive marathon through the series came to the Americas this year. Up front - the music is amazing. Best video game music since Riven, in my book. Very catchy, thematic, and theatrical. Besides the music though, this game is a blast to play. It's like playing a compendium of mystery short stories, except with loads of humor instead of drab attempts at badassery (see CSI). While the gameplay has never pushed any limits, it doesn't have to - both the stories and its beautiful collection of characters made this series skyrocket to "Best DS games ever."
MOST BEAUTIFUL - Sins of a Solar Empire
A February game by Stardock, Sins turned off most of my friends. In fact, I don't even think Chris plays it any more, and I haven't given it a run in a few months. Regardless, I stand by my assertions that the conflicts in this game are the most epic clashes I've controlled with my mouse and keyboard. Most space films and television shows fail to match the raw inertia and elegant destructiveness Sins' starships posess. Additionally, the factions, while largely unexplored in the game due to its lack of a single player campaign, have unique themes and stories to them. Of the three, the Vasari's hopeless attempts at reclaiming cruel dignity strikes at me the most: they are pitiful, these one-time masters of the galaxy - they are relegated to clawing out conquests as their empire crumbles from deep within by some unspeakable force. The game's most powerful asset is its beauty, and that asset is strong indeed.
GOOD OLD FASHIONED FUN - Left 4 Dead
This game makes me gleeful, as much as Team Fortress 2 does. Playing with friends (even those I've only met online) to reap humiliating defeat on unorganized pick-up-gamers is always a treat, but even being on the opposite side of the conflict can be a hilarious blast. Left 4 Dead's greatest achievement, in my book, is making losing fun (as the survivors, at least). While the game lost any vestiges of scariness twenty minutes in, the unadulterated fun I have playing it is wonderful.
BEST GAME OF 2008 - Mount & Blade
I'll be playing this one for a very, very long time. It has so many things going right for it, that its faults are as nothing to me. Hey, that sounds like Riven, don't it? M&B is sandbox RPG done right. It has the best melee combat simulator to date, a dedicated modding scene I've only started to taste, and addictive, good, world-conquering fun which leaves me awake at 4:00 AM thinking it's before midnight.
Comment, and there'll be more entries to come, with more of my games of '08 and elaborations on those only touched upon here.