Time to remember the best of the past as we await the best of the future

Owen Sound Sun Times (On)

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Super Smash Bros. Brawl will no doubt be one of 2008’s biggest titles.

Countless Wii gamers are dismayed that it’s been delayed until March.

We can take some solace that Famitsu (Japan’s biggest gaming magazine) rated it a perfect 40/40 recently, in time for its Japanese release date: Jan. 31. It is only the seventh game to receive a perfect score in Famitsu’s 22-year history.

So while we all wait for Brawl we can pick up No More Heroes, released Jan. 22. I was pretty excited about this one coming out and am stoked to finally play it.

And if that’s not enough, why not play last year’s games you may have missed. Here are some of my picks.

I have a PC, a DS and a Wii, so I’ll be talking about games for those platforms. I’ve picked one game for each console as well as a multiplayer game.

NINTENDO DS: Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass AND Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2 (Japan import)

I lied. I’m actually going to pick two games here, because one of them is an import title.

Zelda: This iteration of Zelda is a wonderful addition to the DS library.

It’s a grand adventure with dungeon crawls, ship sailing, princess rescuing, big bosses and fun mini-games; basically everything you’d want from a Zelda game. The only things that have been scaled down make it a better portable experience. The cel-shaded graphics really lend themselves to the DS hardware, bringing the characters to life on the small screen. The cartoony style allows characters to be very expressive, while helping overcome the DS’s penchant for blocky textures, making in one of the prettiest DS games.

Plus the all stylus control works very well. The adventure feels epic and has tons to do. I’m not a huge fan of returning to the same dungeon over and over (which you’ll do a lot), but the other dungeons along the way make up for it. Highly recommended for DS owners of any age.

Ouendan 2: This game screams to be imported. The scenarios are insane, the characters are ridiculous, the language barrier is incredibly small, it’s a ton of fun, a heck of a challenge and is never coming out in English.

This is my favourite rhythm game (slightly surpassing Guitar Hero II).

Essentially you tap along to songs with the DS stylus, the better your rhythm the more points you get. I love the warped references to Japanese culture, the catchy Japanese pop tunes and the wacky male cheerleaders.

It’s got a great difficulty curve – it starts out dead easy, but by the end you’ll be tearing your hair out. Anyone interested in what we North Americans miss out on from the East, in terms of gaming, should pick this one up.

NINTENDO WII: Super Mario Galaxy

No contest. Mario Galaxy is incredible. It brings back the magic of older Mario games, particularly Mario 64. The control is tight, the levels are great, it’s the most beautiful game on the Wii by a long shot and there’s tons to do. Beating Bowser is only half of it, and it gets tough. Nintendo really pulled out all the stops – the new planet/gravity system, which has you in space, upside down and sideways as much as right side up is tons of fun. The camera works remarkably well, considering how crazy the levels get.

The music is done by an orchestra. You couldn’t ask for much more. If you own a Wii this game is essential. It’s everything a Mario game should be.

PC: Portal

This was my favourite game last year. Mario is amazing, so is Zelda, but Portal is new.

You’ve never played anything like this before. It’s part of the Orange Box, but it’s not a shooter, it’s a puzzle game.

You’re a test subject at Aperture Labs, basically a lab-rat. You’re given a gun that can shoot two portals on various surfaces. The objective is simple: get to the exit. How you do it is the fun part. You have to completely rethink three-dimensional space as you blast portals from one wall to the next. It’s hard to describe just how fun it is. It’s very exhilarating to be doing something completely new in a video game. You’ll be stumped more than once by the end.

Furthermore, the game is hilarious. You’re overseen by a dry, computer voice named GlaDOS. Imagine HAL 9000, but twisted and morbid. It’s great fun!

The game is only about four hours long, but it’s the perfect length, after which you are treated to the best ending credits I have ever seen in a game.

Absolutely glorious. I loved every second of Portal and give it my highest recommendations.

Multiplayer: Team Fortress 2

TF2 is the most fun I’ve had in an online shooter.

The graphics are great and really sell the game, the classes are widely varied and fun to play and the maps have lots of depth upon repeated play.

The best part is the variety in classes means there’s one to suit every play style so you can jump in pretty fast and have a good time. It is wonderfully polished and fun game. If you like online shooters, you’ll love it.

For a general “Game of the Year” lists I suggest Gamespy.com’s or IGN.com’ lists, as they’re quite comprehensive and cover all the consoles.

Calen Henry is a fourth year student of Japanese Studies and Multimedia at McMaster University. He grew up in Owen Sound, has been a gamer since childhood and is also interested in music and film.

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