Year In Review: 2006 - Games

Looking back at videogames in 2006 is almost like standing directly in front of an oncoming train. It's a little overwhelming. Console launches, relaunches, and the stellar games for existing platforms makes for a boatload of games to remember. For the purposes of my Year in Review, I'll naturally limit myself to games I experienced. Although, some were good enough to make the list while I didn't necessarily finish them ... yet.

Top 10 - Games

10. N3: Ninety-Nine Nights - 360 - I fail to understand how people can dig on the hack 'n' slash genre, when games like N3 can make it so damned enjoyable. The style was incredible, the character designs perfect, and mashing buttons mostly never felt so good. Only the shite save system, and less than impressive voice acting hurt this release in my mind, well, that and Mizuguchi really could have done a little more with the music. Also, let us not forget Inphyy's smoking hot.

9. Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter - 360 - The first game to make me feel like my 360 was actually next generation, Ghost Recon delivered the goods in an impressive way. I'll let everyone in on a secret that I've been saving so as to not spoil the moment for a long time. This part WILL incite a pissing of the pants. If for nothing else, Ghost Recon should be commended for proving that 360 games don't need to be so damned shiny.

8. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - 360 - Rounding out this series of 360 titles, Elder Scrolls IV was a little dangerous for me when it was released. I racked something like 60 hours in a couple weeks, and I was amazed at damn near everything in the game world. Ultimately, my own aversion to first-person combat in RPG's, as well as the feeling I got for wasting so much time in such an open-ended environment caused me to abandon the game, but that doesn't mean I don't understand why it topped so many lists this year.

7. Elite Beat Agents - NDS - The redheaded stepchild of Ouendan, Elite Beat Agents never fails in capturing the same gameplay and occasionally the same charm of the original. It's also a landmark in terms of what importers can do to the game industry. I NEED to keep playing through this guy, and hopefully be ready if Nintendo decides that rhythm games of this nature are going to be a mainstay on the DS.

6. Disgaea 2 - PS2 - The return of charming, hilarious, never-ending tactical battles was something to take note of. Disgaea 2 sacrificed some of the comedy of the first, but charged ahead with better graphics, more character types, depth, and a nice string of cameos. The game wasn't perfect, and I could feel its flaws as I traversed the Item World for the 100th time, but nothing in particular caused me to ever feel like I needed to put the controller down.

5. New Super Mario Bros. - NDS - This may or may not be true, but I'm a firm believer that the success of NSMB is totally the reason we're seeing new 2D sidescrollers for Kirby, Yoshi, Wario, and Metroid. Wait, did I say Metroid? Pfft ... you know it's coming. This game rocked the house down, and was the single inspiring factor for the DS Lite, the first portable I'd owned since OG Game Boy, reaching my hands.

4. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - WII - Sacrilege! I know leaving this monster of a game as far back as Number 4 is enough to cause the riots to return to Watts, but it unfortunately must be done. I have a strange disease that allows me to put Zelda games on hiatus, no matter their stellar quality. I've been suffering from it since Ocarina of Time, and I hope I find a cure sometime soon. Regardless, I feel the grandeur of everything I've played to date, and I still feel this is the most realistic position. Please ... don't maim me.

3. Final Fantasy XII - PS2 - I'll be the first to admit it: Final Fantasy XII is kicking my ass. I took some time off to explore the Wii, returned to Ivalice, and still find myself consistently being thwarted by the difficulty of this game. Each boss battle takes a serious toll on my wellbeing, and while I actually live through most of them, the constant struggle is righteously exhilarating. The only real issue I have with the entire experience is that Vaan is NOT a main character. Balthier, the pimptacular James Bond of Ivalice, he should be the focus of all storyline events and dialog.

2. Gears of War - 360 - What can I say that hasn't been said? Microsoft needed something to tide gamers over until Halo 3, they needed a shooter that could prove to people what the 360 was really capable of. This was it, and so much more. Gears of War could have been the best game I played this year, it was really, really close. I only needed a little more and I'd have handed the award over with smiles. Five more hours of gameplay, and I'd be one happy COG.

1. Okami - PS2 - Okami is Zelda done better than Zelda. It's only about 1/3 game, 1/3 story, and 10/3 masterpiece. Trust me ... I double-checked the math. I crammed forty hours of gameplay into something around a week, as if Okami was my full-time job when it was released. Maybe it's my love for wolves, traditional Japan, ...maybe my appreciation of artwork. I'm not sure what exactly propels Okami into legendary status in my mind, but whatever it is, it's there. Okami is my game of the year for 2006, and it's important to say that while we'll definitely see Final Fantasy XIII, the next Zelda, and something else in the Gears timeline, Clover Studios is closed for good, and that makes Okami a once in a lifetime title.

Honorable Mentions -

Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence - PS2
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin - NDS
Megaman ZX - NDS
Contact - NDS
Yakuza - PS2
Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting - 360 (Live Arcade)

What I'm Looking Forward To In 2007 -

Actually, I'll be making an entire separate post for this list, and expect it after I've wrapped up all the other categories that 2006 still holds.


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