Holiday Season; that busy, crazy and sometimes unbearable time of year where everything just become frenzy, and humanity tries desperately to sell you their goods. The worst thing is that you can’t help but join the cheesy feelings and wait for the not-so-silent night to receive a bunch of quality software pieces (unless you have a crappy cheap uncle).
In any case, we ask: which one of the recent holiday seasons has been the best one? Which one has offered the best gaming collection?. Every week we’ll analyze all the Christmas seasons, starting from 2005, in order to remember all those fond memories these particular days produce, and the games/consoles we should have played.
The year the new console in town joined the Christmas celebration with its bright blinking red lights.
This year marked the release of Microsoft’s second console, The Xbox 360, therefore beginning the now current generation of gaming. However, it was kind of a failed launch, as a good percentage of consoles were broken, and it was almost impossible to find one at stores. In addition, having one of its biggest launch games pushed back to 2006 (The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion) meant there was almost nothing worth playing for the new console in town. A few exceptions included Condemned: Criminal Origins, PGR3 and Call of Duty 2, which was a huge success for the console and an indication that the Xbox Live community was here to stay. Of course, there were more so-so games to choose from, namely Kameo: Elements of Power, Riiiidge Racer 6 and Perfect Dark Zero, which were good, but weren’t exactly next generation games. By the holidays, the original Xbox was all but forgotten, so it really had no outstanding games to speak of. There was, however, Jade Empire; an amazing experience from the geniuses at Bioware. It was not released at Q4, but it deserved a mention.
If you had no hopes of getting a new console for that year’s christmas, you had still a plethora a good games to put on your letter to Santa. Let’s start with the poor GameCube owners (myself included). The Nintendo little purple lunchbox was painfully getting closer to its end, and things were not looking good. Sure, it had a temporary exclusive hit called Resident Evil 4, but by the time of the holidays, the game was already released on the hugely popular PlayStation 2 (albeit it was a lesser version) and above all, RE4 got released on January, which meant it really wasn’t eligible for a Q4 offering. This fact left the GameCube with little to no third party support for the holidays, but there were still a few gems to enjoy, such as Batallion Wars (a great sleeper hit which was sadly ignored by the gamers), Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Super Mario Strikers (which gave us the opportunity to see Peach in an… unconventional outfit).
The PS2 owners were clearly blessed that holiday season, as it marked the release of much-anticipated titles like Shadow of the Colossus (arguably the console’s best game), God of War and Guitar Hero (the game that started it all), in addition to some high profile games like the Resident Evil 4 port (damn you, Shinji Mikami!), Dragon Quest VIII and Soul Calibur III, and that’s only covering the games released on Q4. Clearly the PS2 was the best console around, delivering quality software for every single niche of the market.
Sony’s console might be king, but when it comes to handhelds, the Nintendo DS had a clearly stellar holiday season on 2005. After launching a year earlier, the Nintendo DS’s first months were spent releasing mostly awkward games like Yoshi’s Touch and Go and Pokémon Dash, but that suddenly changed, and by Christmas, Nintendo had delivered an incredibly strong line-up for its dual-screened handheld, with games like Animal Crossing: Wild World, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, Trauma Center: Under the Knife and my personal favorite: Mario Kart DS (which changed the go-kart racing genre forever).
On the other side of the spectrum, the PSP had a really, really lacking season. It had a pretty good launch year, though; but by the time the busiest season of the year arrived, the PSP was left with mostly mediocre PS2 ports and some decent titles. The best of the bunch? Clearly Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories was something special, and the must-buy title for any self-respecting PSP owner or any person looking for a good game to give on Christmas eve.
Conclusion: 2005 was definitely a good year for us gamers. We got a first glimpse of what next-generation gaming would be about, a showcase of creative handheld implementation, and overall a nice collection of great games. It’s an interesting year because, even with a brand-new more powerful (yet flawed) hardware around, people preferred to experience more innovative approaches like Guitar Hero (which started the whole music games madness), Shadow of the Colossus and Mario Kart DS. Also, 2005 was clearly the last year with a strong line-up of non-HD software, and the year we saw how big the contrast between the hardware offerings were; while some consoles were vividly shining like the sun (PS2, NDS), the rest were either dead (Xbox) or painfully agonizing (GCN)… or simply there (PSP).
2005’s Game of the Year
Shadow of the Colossus. It really needs no explanation, this is THE game to have for the PS2. It boasted a cinematic, climatic and innovative experience, wrapped in some of the best graphics ever to grace the not-so-powerful PlayStation 2. The controls were tight, the music was fantastic; everything in this game was top-notch. If you haven’t played it, shame on you, but there will be redemption next year with a Blu-Ray release of both this game and Ico, complete with HD visuals and trophies for the ultimate nerdgasm!.
So this is it for this week’s analysis of recent holiday seasons. Wasn’t your favorite game included? Was it a good Christmas for you? Did you get a piece of carbon? Will the terrorists win because of the RROD? Feel free to speak your mind in the comment section below.
Note: The Game of the Year stated in this article has been chosen according to a trend followed by the industry that year. It must be noted that Game of the Year nominations are ultimately subjective perceptions made by equally subjective individuals. This one is not meant to be any different so feel free to differ with the author’s subjective statements.