My “Game of the Year 2009”

With the year winding down, many gamers have been discussing the best games of 2009, mostly to debate which game should be honoured “Game of the Year”. I think it’s impossible for any media outlet or any individual person to make a list that will make everyone happy. However, what I can do better than anyone else is speak for myself. With that said, my choice for “Game of the Year” is not the be-all-end-all opinion you have to believe in. Feel free to give me your picks for “Game of the Year” and “Game of the Year” nominees.

So…where to start? I guess so that we’re all playing on somewhat common ground, I would cover off a few games that have been consensus “Game of the Year” nominees among many video game media outlets and go from there.

Uncharted 2

I’ve heard all sorts of wonderful things about the game’s cinematic experience and super-fun gameplay. However, I do not own a PS3 as of this time, so I’ve never played it or the original. In the event I ever get a chance to play it, I will definitely give it a shot.

Assassin’s Creed 2

Many critics of the first game had their gripes fixed with Assassin’s Creed 2. Because of the criticisms of the first game, I decided to pass on the experience completely. However, with the great word-of-mouth and the “12 Days of Gaming” sale at EB Games (I got it brand new for $30), I thought I would give it a shot. I’m just over half way through the game and it’s blowing my mind. The game does a fantastic job of making you buy into the life of Ezio. In terms of plot and setting, I haven’t played anything this interesting…possibly ever. It’s arguably the prettiest of all the open-world games out there right now. There’s also a ton of fun stuff to do outside the great main quest. My only gripe with it is that the controls sometimes leave a bit to be desired when Ezio doesn’t make the precision jumps you want him to because of the game’s auto-correct jumping mechanics.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Up until I won this at my mom’s work Christmas party, I had never played a CoD game and thought I never would. Man, was I missing out. So far the game is a ton of fun to play and really feels like an evolution on the Goldeneye/Perfect Dark era of FPS games that I am fond of. The only major sticking point to me is that the game feels kind of hard on normal difficulty, but maybe that’s just because I’m a newbie (and not that good). I will definitely put more time into it in the new year.

New Super Mario Bros Wii

I don’t think any game this year captures pure fun like New Super Mario Bros Wii. As a single player experience, it feels a lot like Super Mario 3 and Super Mario World, arguably the best two games in the series. It’s also not a piece of cake like the DS version, so it will provide a great challenge for even the most seasoned Mario veteran. What changes the whole dynamic of the game though is the co-op play for up to 4 players. With 4 people in the screen, it’s absolute madness. It’s a testament to how universally awesome the game is when I can play it with my cousins together and we all have fun, and they’re 11, 7 and 3 years old.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

At the time of release, I bought this only because of the great reviews and the sale price at launch. What I didn’t expect was this game to live up to the hype. Batman is the definitive super hero game. It totally captures what it is to be Batman while being enjoyable throughout. I wholeheartedly recommend this game, even at full-price and I eagerly anticipate the recently announced sequel.

I would also like to put in an honourable mention to The Beatles: Rock Band, which was I think the definitive exclusive-to-one-band game. I’m sure that many more will come, but none will be made with the same love and care (and awesome music, but that’s a personal taste) as the Beatles game was.

Are any of these my game of the year? No. My game of the year is one that came out very early in the year and I’m sure many people have forgotten to consider it because of that. Even with that against it, 2009 Game of the Year is a pretty easy choice for me to make. No game beat it in terms of the total time invested and total fun I had with it. It inspired me to get back into a genre of game that I felt abandoned me in 1995 and got me so back into it that I now actively follow the professional scene behind this game.

All things considered, my 2009 game of the year is Street Fighter IV.

I’m still an insanely huge fan of the Street Fighter II series. I’ve poured in countless hours of my life throwing hadokens and giving the business to M. Bison and company. To this day, I still play the original Street Fighter II. I even left a copy of the Super Nintendo version of the game at her house so I could play it when I’m visiting and she’s doing something else. However, after Super Street Fighter II, fighting games got way too complicated and I stopped playing them completely. When Street Fighter IV was announced, it was being hyped up as a return to the series Street Fighter II roots, which is all I needed to know before jumping back on the bandwagon.

Did I get what I asked for? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that I got a more accessible fighting game that I can play and enjoy at my skill level. No, I didn’t get a carbon copy of Street Fighter II. I got an extremely modernized and fluid fighting game that at it’s core brings back feelings of the classic. However, it doesn’t come off as a rehash of Street Fighter II. Nostalgia be damned, Street Fighter IV is a better game in every respect.

I’ve invested over 200 hours into this game, mostly testing my chops against the best (and worst) XBOX Live has to offer. While the online systems weren’t great, once you were in a fight, things generally ran as they should. I spent a lot of time trying to get better through training. It got me interested in trying BlazBlue (which is cool, but I’m still not sure I’m willing to invest the time I need to learn it). It also got me regularly following the tournament scene. It’s been awesome watching the likes of Daigo and Justin Wong play this game at another level and then trying to implement their styles into how I play the game. It’s almost like Street Fighter IV has transcended the world of “gaming” and moved into “sport” for me. Even almost a year after its release, the only thing I see stopping me from playing this is the release of Super Street Fighter IV in the spring.

Will there be enough new magic in SSFIV to make it my 2010 Game of the Year? We’ll find out next year. But for now, I’ll go back to catching scrubs on XBOX Live with my mean Raging Demon setups. Street Fighter IV is my game of the year.

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